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ORANGE COUNTY IN BANKRUPTCY : Citron's Former Top Aide Placed on Leave; Refusal to Answer Questions Cited

January 22, 1995|DEBORA VRANA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SANTA ANA — Matthew R. Raabe has worked in the county treasurer's office since 1984, the year he graduated from college. He was former Treasurer Robert L. Citron's right-hand man and heir apparent. But his county service came to a halt this weekend. Raabe--the assistant treasurer initially hailed for alerting the county to problems with the investment fund in early November--was temporarily removed from his job with county government.

County officials said they placed Raabe, 38, on paid administrative leave after he refused through his attorney to answer questions about alleged improper accounting and falsifying of records at the treasurer's office.

Neither Raabe or his lawyer could be reached for comment Saturday.

Although a high-profile spokesman when the county's financial crisis unfolded in early December, Raabe has increasingly taken a back seat. When his boss, Citron resigned two days before the county filed for bankruptcy Dec. 6, Raabe was named acting treasurer. But he was demoted to his old job Dec. 23.

A majority of the Board of Supervisors has indicated for weeks that it wanted Raabe out, saying the credibility of the treasurer's office needed to be restored.

Raabe, a certified public accountant, was named assistant treasurer in 1993. He quickly became Citron's top spokesman, county officials said.

While Citron was seen as an investment specialist not adept at communicating his ideas, Raabe was perceived as having the ability to simplify complex financial strategies so people could understand them, Ernie Schneider, the county's chief administrative officer, said in an interview last month.

Raabe often explained the county investment pool and its investment strategies to investors.

Raabe is an Iowa native but a product of Orange County schools. He moved here with his family in 1960 and graduated from Cal State Fullerton in 1984 with a degree in business administration. He lives in Santa Ana.

Hired as an auditor in the auditor-controller's office one month after graduation, Raabe has worked in various county positions. He became chief of treasury operations for the county treasurer's office in 1987 and was handpicked by Citron to be his heir.

But during last week's legislative hearing into the county's financial crisis, Raabe sought to distance himself from his former boss.

"Mr. Citron had been in office for 20 years. He was a very experienced treasurer, and I presumed he knew what he was supposed to do," Raabe testified.

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