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Bankruptcy Defendants' Bills Pile Up

Government: County CEO proposes increasing the legal assistance for three key figures by a combined $805,418.

October 03, 1996|SHELBY GRAD | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

SANTA ANA — County supervisors will decide next week whether to authorize an additional $805,418 in defense funding to three central figures facing civil or criminal charges related to the bankruptcy.

The Board of Supervisors already has allocated $1.3 million in taxpayer money to cover the legal costs. But the defendants said they have exceeded their spending caps and need additional funds as their cases move forward.

In a report released Wednesday, County Chief Executive Officer Jan Mittermeier proposes increasing the spending cap for former County Budget Director Ronald S. Rubino from $500,000 to $855,418.

Rubino's request comes three weeks after a jury deadlocked 9 to 3 in favor of acquitting him on two felony counts of skimming interest from Orange County's ill-fated investment pool. Dist. Atty. Michael R. Capizzi said his office is "gearing up" to retry the case.

Rubino's attorneys told the county that defense bills for the first trial totaled $550,418 and estimated that a second trial would cost $305,000.

Several supervisors already have expressed support for Rubino's request. At a board meeting last month, several jurors from Rubino's trial said that prosecutors didn't prove their case and urged supervisors to provide additional defense funds.

"That was a very powerful statement," Supervisor William G. Steiner said. "I think the jury's 9-3 vote for acquittal is very important. I don't think the board would provide more money if it had been the other way around."

Mittermeier also proposed that the board double Steiner's defense cap to $500,000 and increase Auditor-Controller Steve E. Lewis' cap from $300,000 to $500,000. Steiner, Lewis and Board Chairman Roger R. Stanton face civil charges for failing to prevent the $1.64-billion bankruptcy. If convicted, they could be removed from office.

Stanton hasn't requested additional funds. Capizzi indicated last month that Stanton's case probably would not go to trial before the veteran supervisor leaves office in December.

A state appeals court is expected to rule in the next few weeks on a request by Steiner and Stanton to throw out their cases.

Steiner said Wednesday that he has exceeded his defense cap by $38,000 but would not require any additional funds if the appeals court rules in his favor. He said he would need more money, however, if his case goes to trial.

Lewis faces the toughest fight for more defense costs. The board originally allocated $250,000 to Lewis. In May, he asked for an additional $250,000, but reluctant supervisors agreed to provide only $50,000. Attorneys for Lewis said the auditor's legal bills have already exceeded $425,000.

Supervisor Marian Bergeson said she is inclined to oppose any further contributions to Lewis, noting that some of his auditing functions have been transferred to the new internal audits manager, a position created since the December 1994 bankruptcy.

The board originally was scheduled to consider Lewis' request last month. But supervisors delayed action while the county counsel's office determined whether Steiner and Stanton could vote on the issue even though their attorneys had worked together on a portion of their cases.

Steiner said that county attorneys reviewed the matter with the state Fair Political Practices Commission, which concluded that the supervisors could vote on Lewis' request.

Also contributing to this report was Times staff writer Matt Lait.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

Legal Bills

The Board of Supervisors will decide next week whether to provide additional legal defense funds to three who face bankruptcy-related civil or criminal charges. Here is a breakdown:

*--*

Allocated Proposed Proposed so far addition total Former Budget Director Ronald S. Rubino $500,000 $355,418 Auditor-Controller Steve E. Lewis 300,000 200,000 Supervisor William G. Steiner 250,000 250,000 $500,000 Supervisors Board Chairman Roger R. Stanton 250,000 *

Former Budget Director $855,418 Auditor-Controller $500,000 Supervisor William G. Steiner Supervisors Board Chairman

*--*

* Stanton has not requested additional funds. District attorney's office has indicated the case might not go to trial before Stanton leaves office in December.

Source: County of Orange; Researched by SHELBY GRAD / For The Times

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