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Supervisors Waged Behind-the-Scenes Battle Over New Jail Site

March 19, 1986|JOHN NEEDHAM | Times Staff Writer

When Supervisor Ralph B. Clark proposed a week ago that the county consider building a smaller, interim jail, he knew just the site: next to the existing jail in Santa Ana, in Supervisor Roger Stanton's district.

On Tuesday, the jail wound up not in Santa Ana but in Anaheim, part of Clark's district.

Even worse from Clark's standpoint, the new site is half a mile from Anaheim Stadium, home to the California Angels and Los Angeles Rams, both favorites of the supervisor.

"We knew (selection of a new jail site) was a can of worms that could explode in our face," Clark aide Dan Wooldridge said Tuesday.

It did.

Only Clark voted against the site, failing three times to get even one other supervisor's vote on his side.

He said county officials, whom he would not identify, had told him that a second jail would fit next to the old one. But Stanton said he knew from the beginning that the parcel was too small, a conclusion also reached by county employees who were ordered to find a suitable location.

The supervisors told their staff to hunt for sites between 2 1/2 acres and seven acres. The staff said an architectural design for the jail is already in hand, and using those plans would cut 10 months off the design process. But, the staff said, the plans require seven acres.

The site next to the jail is only 2 1/2 acres.

"It seemed to me that 2 1/2 (acres) would be sufficient," Clark said after Tuesday's vote. "That's what I thought. I was as surprised as heck when I found out that it had come up to seven acres."

County staffers said that Clark and some of his aides were told last Wednesday night that the site next to the existing jail was too small. Last Thursday, supervisors were told that there were four appropriate sites--two in Santa Ana and two in Anaheim.

Stanton, however, already knew that. In fact, he'd been in touch with political leaders and school district officials in Santa Ana, he said, letting them know what was coming. The Santa Ana forces began gearing up for battle, garnering publicity and pressuring supervisors.

Stanton denied charges by Clark's aides that he stormed into the office of Assistant County Administrative Officer Murry Cable and made off with early copies of the report.

"Anyone who wanted to know what was in it could have figured it out," Stanton said.

"I knew about the alternatives (to the main jail site) early in the week" from a source other than the county administrative office, Stanton said. "But even I was surprised by the sparseness of the population around the Katella-Douglass area" in Anaheim.

Cable said that although "Supervisor Stanton was extremely interested in this project," the county employees produced a "pure, clean staff document" that "did not take into account political factors."

Anaheim Mayor Don Roth complained that he did not learn until late last Friday that two sites in Anaheim, one near Disneyland and the other near Anaheim Stadium, were possible locations. An Orange councilman said he didn't learn of the sites until Monday, the day before the vote.

By last Friday, before Roth knew what was up, Stanton had the county staff compile a list showing that far more children live near the potential Santa Ana sites than the one at Katella and Douglass.

He hammered at the theme of putting a jail in a commercial area, such as in the Anaheim Stadium area, not a residential one, such as the Santa Ana sites.

By late Monday, Clark made a last ditch attempt to keep the jail out of Anaheim by ordering the county administrative office to determine whether the jail could be placed on the north Santa Ana site, which is now a facility for juvenile offenders. That idea was ruled out in a county report as too costly and time-consuming. But Clark said he still thinks that the location is ideal and that the report concentrated only on negatives, not positives.

'Leaves a Lot to Be Desired'

"I'm not enthralled with the staff work" on the jail site issue, Clark said. "To me it leaves a lot to be desired."

On Monday night, Clark complained to a Stanton aide that during the week a supervisor's office had been "intimidating the (county staff), stealing documents." But on Tuesday, Clark said that the remarks had been "off the cuff" and that "I have nothing to substantiate that."

Asked if the supervisors decided to put the new jail in his district because he is retiring at the end of this year, Clark turned red.

"Absolutely not," he said angrily. "It had nothing to do with it and I resent any inferences of that. No one was trying to stick it to me by putting it in my district."

Roth, Orange Mayor James H.Beam and former Rep. Jerry R. Patterson are candidates to succeed Clark when he retires. All three said they didn't want the jail in Anaheim, and Roth and Patterson testified at Tuesday's meeting.

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