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Stanton Releases Plan to Revamp Government

January 03, 1995

SANTA ANA — Supervisor Roger R. Stanton on Monday unveiled his long-awaited proposal to restructure county government, calling for a chief executive officer who would have authority over all department managers and seeking an election that could change the laws by which the county is governed.

Stanton's nine-page proposal, sent to other members of the Board of Supervisors, contains many of the same themes echoed by his colleagues, most notably former state Sen. Marian Bergeson, who succeeds Thomas F. Riley today.

"Today, in the midst of Orange County's fiscal crisis, there is good reason to challenge the best and brightest of this prosperous county to restructure Orange County government," wrote Stanton, who is the subject of a recall campaign.

"There may be some disagreement about how it should be done and what it will look like afterwards," he wrote. "However, I would be surprised if there is any question about why it should be done."

In his proposal, Stanton asked that the county define its very purpose, paring away any services that are not essential and making a fresh examination of the county's organizational chart. Stanton also wants to look at every county department to determine whether private industry might do a better job.

Asking for a review of all department managers, Stanton requested that a committee study whether those who are elected might be better off appointed. Stanton said there would be obvious exceptions, such as the district attorney.

"An elected department head, operating with relative autonomy, is inconsistent with the notion of accountability within a chain of command," Stanton wrote.

Redefining the existing position of chief administrative officer to make the top county official report to the supervisors and have authority over department heads "makes a great deal of sense," Stanton wrote. "It clearly identifies one set of feet to hold to the fire. However, it must be cautioned the mere creation of a CEO does not guarantee strong, effective management."

Like others, Stanton suggested an election be held to allow voters the opportunity to enact a charter for Orange County, which would make it independent from the state and allow it to enter into private contracts for certain services. It is now a general law county, which gives it less flexibility to privatize services because of existing state employment practices.

"Assuming that a charter county vote is the implementing mechanism of the finished product--the blueprint for a restructured county government--then work should begin immediately," Stanton wrote. "I would urge that the people of Orange County be given the option to vote on a redesigned county government in 1996."

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