SANTA ANA — Chairman Gaddi H. Vasquez has told close friends and confidants that he will resign from the Orange County Board of Supervisors, possibly as soon as the end of the month, sources said.
Vasquez announced six weeks ago that he would not seek reelection when his term expires at the end of next year, but he has continued to complain bitterly about what he feels is unfair criticism of his role in the county's bankruptcy crisis.
As speculation swirled in the Hall of Administration and among Republican leaders that his departure from office was imminent, Vasquez left town Friday, leaving his electronic pager behind so he could not be reached for comment, his staff said.
A spokeswoman for his office denied that Vasquez planned to step down early.
However, some political insiderssaid Vasquez made his intentions known to his staff this week.
"He did it in a small group, talked to his staff, and talked to his trusted henchmen," said Buck Johns, a Republican political activist and member of the Lincoln Club.
In announcing June 14 that he would step down at the conclusion of his four-year term, Vasquez said he wanted to spend more time with his family and friends.
Vasquez has been a supervisor since 1987, when he was appointed by then-Gov. George Deukmejian to replace Bruce Nestande, who had resigned.
Although he had become the target of a recall effort in recent weeks, Vasquez, Orange County's highest-ranking Latino officeholder, has proved himself to be a prodigious fund-raiser who had accumulated more than $300,000 in campaign funds.
Those close to Vasquez said that he was particularly disturbed that the recall effort was launched against him even though he declared that he would not seek reelection.
Once viewed as a rising star in the Republican Party, Vasquez's reputation has been tarnished by the county's financial debacle. When he declared that he would not run again, the 40-year-old politician admitted that the bankruptcy had taken an emotional and physical toll on him.
If Vasquez leaves office before his term expires, Gov. Pete Wilson would appoint his replacement. Wilson spokesman Paul Kranhold said the governor would not "have any comment until Mr. Vasquez confirms" that he is resigning. Kranhold also declined to discuss any possible replacement.
Several sources said that Vasquez plans to leave office by the end of the month, although one political associate said the board chairman would remain in office through the adoption of the county's budget in September.
Although it remained unclear what Vasquez would do if he stepped down, some sources indicated that he might return in some capacity to the Orange Police Department, where he continues to serve as a reserve officer.
Times staff writers Jodi Wilgoren and Rene Lynch contributed to this story.