Taxpayer Champion Prevails Over Union Dollars

Justifiably taxpayers rejoiced over last week’s defeat of statewide measures Propositions 81 and 82. Both were dangerous silly proposals that would have resulted in more debt and higher taxes. But perhaps the most significant outcome of California’s primary comes from a local race in Orange County. There Orange County Treasurer John Moorlach prevailed in his bid to join the Board of Supervisors.

Moorlach’s history in the OC is reminiscent of the story of Cassandra the mythological princess who rejected the god Apollo’s amorous advances and was in turn cursed by him with the gift to foretell catastrophic events while her words were perceived as lies by all who heard her.

More than ten years ago Moorlach accurately predicted the Orange County bankruptcy before it was generally known that the county treasurer Robert Citron was using illegal investment schemes and relying on a psychic for advice in managing county funds. Because he was a candidate for the treasurer’s office Moorlach’s words were generally dismissed as campaign puffery by the political establishment and the media and were not given the gravity they deserved by some prominent taxpayer organizations.

Shortly thereafter the county was forced into BK and it will not be until the year 2016 that all the bills will be paid. The result has been higher costs and fewer services to taxpayers. However the situation could have been worse. Moorlach was appointed county treasurer to replace the criminal Citron where he made the best of an extremely difficult situation. Subsequently he was reelected three times.

But Moorlach has not been content to rest on his laurels. He has continued to speak out when he has believed that county finances and taxpayers are in jeopardy. Recently he challenged the sweetheart pension deal with county employees that the Board of Supervisors approved warning that county finances resembled a "house of cards" and that future board members will be forced to clean up the mess left by those currently in charge. Among other problems the agreement with the unions allowed retirement with generous benefits at age 55 instead of the previous age 62 putting the whole plan actuarially out of whack. The county faces billions of dollars in unfunded pension liabilities.

Never one to shrink from a challenge and at great personal sacrifice Moorlach made the decision to run for a soon-to-be-vacant seat on the board a position that pays $30000 a year less than his current salary.

No sooner had he announced for office than the government employee unions began playing the role of Apollo to Moorlach’s Cassandra. So anxious were the government employee union leaders to discredit Moorlach’s prediction of dire consequence resulting from the overly generous union contract that the Orange County Employees Association dunned its members an additional $10 each to pay for a misleading campaign to attack Moorlach and support his opposition.

The unions’ choice was Stanton City Councilman Dave Shawver whose Council colleagues had censured him for bad behavior. A former Stanton mayor said Shawver interrupts calls people names pouts and fakes being asleep. Apparently the unions assumed that if elected he would feign sleep when next the Board of Supervisors considered the impact on county finances of increasing the already lavish benefits provided public employees.

So while Moorlach continued to defend the interests of county taxpayers a union boss called Moorlach "the biggest threat in the county to employees’ personal financial security" and the unions spent hundreds of thousand of dollars in their effort to bar Moorlach from the board.

Well the results are in and voters in Orange County are smarter than the unions are rich. Nearly 70 percent saw through the unions’ smokescreen and elevated a taxpayer champion to an office where he can promote sound fiscal policy.

Moorlach’s election bodes well for Orange County and is a lesson to candidates throughout the state that armed with the truth they can take on the public employee unions and win.

Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association — California’s largest taxpayer organization — which is dedicated to the protection of Proposition 13 and promoting taxpayers’ rights.