Former Assemblyman Scott Baugh and his firm, Manatt Phelps & Phillips, will take over lobbying duties for Orange County beginning Jan. 1, besting a bid by a firm affiliated with former Assemblyman Curt Pringle.
The $20,000-a-month contract replaces the county's longtime ties to lobbyist Dennis Carpenter, who retired this year. Carpenter, also a former legislator, became the county lobbyist in 1980.
The contract isn't the most expensive lobbying agreement in the county. Two city of Irvine consultants have been paid $50,000 a month. But the selection means a probable lengthy relationship between Baugh's firm and the county and the possibility the firm may attract other government clients.
Supervisors Chuck Smith, Jim Silva and Todd Spitzer voted for Baugh, who joined the Manatt firm after leaving the Assembly last year because of term limits.
"Over the years, I've had a very good working relationship with Scott Baugh," Silva said in moving to accept the firm.
Supervisors Cynthia P. Coad and Tom Wilson backed the proposal submitted by Pringle and Kevin Sloat of Sloat Higgins Jensen & Associates. Pringle is a former Republican Assembly speaker; Sloat was an aide to former Gov. Pete Wilson.
Coad voted against Manatt, Phelps & Phillips; Wilson abstained. Both said the Sloat proposal was scored higher by a county review panel. Rejecting the panel's recommendation could have a chilling effect on future panels, the two supervisors said.
"I think that's being a little dramatic," Spitzer said. "It was an objective process. . . . But this is probably the most subjective contract we'll approve as supervisors. It's all about relationships."
Baugh said his law and lobbying firm benefits from blending Republicans, like himself and others in the office, with Democrats, including Charles T. Manatt, a former Democratic National Committee chairman and former U.S. ambassador to the Dominican Republic.
The firm's Christine Diemer formerly headed the Orange County chapter of the Building Industry Assn. and worked in former Gov. George Deukmejian's administration.
The local Manatt, Phelps & Phillips office is in Costa Mesa and includes partner Thomas D. Phelps.
In March, Manatt, Phelps & Phillips was hired for $5,000 a month to lobby on several issues for the Orange County Fire Authority.