After several late-night break-ins, security has been tightened in and around the fifth-floor offices of the Orange County supervisors at the county Hall of Administration in Santa Ana.
A deputy sheriff posing as a civilian walked into the area occupied by the supervisors last spring and got as far as some of the elected officials' personal offices without being stopped or questioned by anyone.
"Fortunately, the supervisors weren't there, or they could have been given quite a scare," said a law-enforcement official who requested anonymity.
The deputy's visit, according to several board members, was a deliberate attempt to test security after reports of break-ins and thefts, as well as some crank threats from disgruntled constituents, concern about international terrorism and the murder of Arab Anti-Defamation League leader Alex Odeh in a bomb blast Oct. 11 last year less than two miles away.
For the Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday August 27, 1986 Orange County Edition Metro Part 2 Page 2 Column 2 Metro Desk 1 inches; 33 words Type of Material: Correction
An article Tuesday incorrectly identified the organization headed by Alex M. Odeh before he was killed by a terrorist's bomb at his Santa Ana office last year. The organization is the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee.
Two supervisors, Bruce Nestande and Roger R. Stanton, had reported that their desks had been broken into in separate incidents long after normal business hours. There also was a theft in Supervisor Ralph B. Clark's office, according to an aide.
Nestande told The Times in a recent interview that his desk was rifled after hours, and two aides complained that they were missing a total of about $300 in petty cash kept in the office. Stanton, whose office was recently struck by stray bullets fired by police officers cavorting on a nearby rooftop, said his desk had been rifled but nothing turned up missing.
Stanton told The Times that he was especially alarmed by the incident when he walked into another part of his office and discovered that someone had tried unsuccessfully to open an unused safe concealed by ceramic floor tile.
Demanded by Clark, chairman of the Board of Supervisors, an extensive, secret security study revealed that almost anyone with knowledge of the Hall of Administration floor plan could ride up and down the supervisors' private elevators at will at any time of the day or night, said county officials.
Details about what steps have been taken to protect the supervisors are scarce. Lt. Richard J. Olson of the Sheriff's Department confirmed the existence of the security investigation, but he and other officials declined to discuss specific corrective measures taken.
The Times has learned, however, that most locks have been changed on the floor where the supervisors' offices are located, access to the supervisors' private elevators has been sharply restricted, and access to a previously open half-floor space below the supervisors' offices has been curtailed.
In addition, panic buttons that would allow the supervisors and others to secretly call security personnel have been installed and law-enforcement officials now monitor board meetings through electronic surveillance and other means.
"Clark was upset about the security problem and asked for a complete review," said Dan Wooldridge, a Clark aide. "The rest of the board agreed that it was needed. But obviously we're not going to reveal what has been done about it because that is exactly what some crazy nut would love to know."
Clark could not be reached for comment.
Officials said the security problem was compounded by some supervisors' failure to have staff members return magnetically coded card keys and regular metal keys when they leave the employ of the county.
Wooldridge confirmed that Clark's office had experienced a theft but declined to reveal the nature of it for security reasons.
"Needless to say, the boss was angry," Wooldridge said. "But the extensive security review was requested not because of any single incident, such as a petty theft, but because of the whole climate involving international terrorism and an accumulation of things that have happened around here."
Some Crank Threats
Wooldridge declined to elaborate, again citing concern for security. But law-enforcement officials said there were a few crank threats received by "one or more" supervisors from constituents disgruntled over such issues as jet noise at John Wayne Airport.
None of the threats were carried out, and they were written off as "non-serious" by investigators, said law-enforcement officials familiar with the incidents.
"Some of the supervisors have no idea where old keys are or who has them," one law enforcement official said. "That makes it very difficult to track anything down."
Meanwhile, investigations into the petty thefts have turned up few leads, officials said.