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Defense Depicts Life of Failure in Court Report


SANTA ANA — If there is anyone in Orange County who still holds the remotest impression that former County Treasurer Robert L. Citron was a competent financial manager, they need only read the embarrassingly detailed psychological reports filed in court by his own attorney Tuesday.

A Newport Beach neurologist describes how he timed Citron, now 71, while he rambled for 20 minutes about a visit to the hardware store to buy angle irons, stopping only when he was cut off.

A neuropsychologist in Irvine found that the man who once managed the county's $21-billion investment pool was in the "brain-damaged" and "seriously impaired" ranges in tests of higher brain functions.

In excruciating detail, the reports, prepared on Citron's behalf, describe a man plagued from childhood by a panoply of physical ailments and demoralizing failures who began to crumble years before the county bankruptcy in December 1994.

When the county went under, Citron did too, seeking counseling for suicidal thoughts in January 1995, the reports said.

Subsequent neurological tests concluded that dysfunctions in the front part of Citron's brain have resulted in memory loss, problems assimilating new information and obsessive-compulsive behavior, according to Elizabeth S. Parker, director of the Center for Neuropsychology in Irvine. Parker's diagnosis of dementia for Citron was revealed in court earlier.

Parker said Citron also has "significant memory deficits" that would appear in only one of 100 normal people of his age and education.

In the months following the bankruptcy, the former treasurer was unable to add certain fractions or correctly calculate interest, and his math skills were judged to be at the seventh-grade level, Parker reported. For example, one question asked him to calculate the interest on $1,200 at 6% for two years, compounded annually. Citron answered $1,348.32. The correct answer is $148.32.

Citron's attorney, David W. Wiechert, is hoping this portrait of Citron will help convince his sentencing judge that the former treasurer should not go to prison for defrauding investors--and perhaps was not wholly responsible for his actions prior to the bankruptcy.

Even Terry Citron, who has not spent more than six nights away from her husband in 40 years, is dissected in this plea for a lenient sentence. A psychological evaluation found her a woman who is "utterly dependent" on her husband and would suffer from anxiety and depression if he were jailed.

The hefty private probation study Wiechert submitted to the court again recounts the tale of a woebegone loner who never succeeded at anything until he got a job at the county. And even then, the report asserts, people mistook Citron's strong administrative skills for financial genius.

The report includes sheaves of letters lauding Citron for his financial wizardry, including one from Bill Clinton, then governor of Arkansas.

But in actuality, the report said, Citron was never much more than average, mostly less.

He was born with congenital asthma that would "flare up when he visited L.A. or ate chocolate." He suffered from diabetes and a stuttering problem that continues to plague him. Scarring from a lung that collapsed after a childhood Boy Scout hike kept him out of World War II service.

His unsuccessful attempts at course work at USC were described as "dismal." His employment: "erratic at best, a dismal failure at worst."

He was fired twice from jobs as a loan manager and quit as a car salesman after he could only sell one new car. Then he got a job as a deputy tax collector with the county in 1960 and his storied career began.

But, the report said, after decades of surprising success at the county, Citron began stumbling three or fours years before the bankruptcy. He fell asleep during financial presentations, stopped giving speeches, even disconnected his county phone so he wouldn't have to talk to people.

One neurologist who examined Citron after the bankruptcy said he was "rambling and almost incoherent in his speech."

Another, C. Philip O'Carroll of Newport Beach, concluded: "Overall, there is little doubt in my mind that this man has significant cognitive impairments at this time."

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