More than two months after learning that the county district attorney was investigating him and his office, Registrar of Voters Ray Ortiz said Monday he still has no idea what the probe is all about.
Ortiz and his attorney, Merle Schneidewind, said at an afternoon press conference that they believe the district attorney's searches on Aug. 1 of Ortiz's home and the home of a couple who do business with the county have turned up no evidence of wrongdoing.
Ortiz said he is also confident that the district attorney will find nothing of note in records of Ortiz's checking account with Wells Fargo Bank dating back to January, 1984.
In his first public comments since the search warrants and subpoenas were issued, Ortiz, who is on an indefinite leave of absence from his job, declared flatly that he has had no financial or personal connections to any person who has done business with the county.
Ortiz said he does not know what the district attorney hoped to learn by seizing his checkbooks, a scrapbook, financial records, the combination to a post office box, a briefcase containing financial files, and his driver's license in a search of his Fletcher Hills home.
Similar items were taken in a search of the Escondido home of Richard and Lora Stephens, owners of Election Data Corp., which has done more than $300,000 in business with the registrar's office. Also searched was the home of Maria Caldera of Chula Vista, a longtime friend of Ortiz who has worked for the registrar's office and as a consultant for Jeffries Banknote Co. of Los Angeles, which prints the sample ballots sent to San Diego County voters before each election.
Although Ortiz knows the investigation centers on contracts awarded by his office over the last two years, he said he still does not know exactly what the district attorney suspects he might have done wrong.
"It's rather frustrating not knowing what, if anything, they're looking for, whether I've been accused of anything," Ortiz said. "It's just frustrating not knowing."
To find out more about the investigation, Schneidewind on Monday filed a motion in Superior Court seeking the release of affidavits filed by the district attorney in support of the warrant to search Ortiz's home. A hearing on Schneidewind's motion is set for Friday afternoon before Superior Court Judge Richard Huffman.
Schneidewind said he believes the documents will be released then, and that the district attorney's office might give some more concrete indication of the status of the case by Sept. 1. Ortiz said he will consider returning to his county job to run the November election if he is cleared by Sept. 1. While on leave from the county, Ortiz is working as a consultant for R.P. Shoupe Co., a Pennsylvania firm that manufactures electronic voting machines and other election equipment.
County officials, meanwhile, said Monday that the contract to print the sample ballots for the next five scheduled elections--through November, 1988--apparently will not go to Jeffries, the firm that has been doing the work but also reportedly figures in the investigation of Ortiz.
Bids opened Friday showed that Martin & Chapman, a Los Angeles area printing firm, was the low bidder for the job with a proposal totaling $1.53 million. Jeffries Banknote bid about $1.78 million. A third bidder, Pandick Midwest of Illinois, offered to do the work for $2.67 million.
County purchasing director James Tapp said the new contract would be awarded on completion of an evaluation to ensure that Martin & Chapman is capable of doing the work.