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Orange County

Pact for D.A. Security Is in Dispute

Rackauckas seeks to oust the Sheriff's Department and hire Santa Ana police to guard headquarters. A decision is postponed.

June 09, 2004|Jean O. Pasco and Kevin Pang | Times Staff Writers

Orange County Dist. Atty. Tony Rackauckas on Tuesday tried to fire the Sheriff's Department and hire the Santa Ana Police Department instead to provide security for his headquarters.

Sheriff Michael S. Carona, whose office has guarded the district attorney's building for decades, protested the change, and county supervisors agreed to postpone a decision while a settlement of the dispute is sought.

Contracting with the Santa Ana Police Department would save about $37,000 a year in security costs, prosecutors contended in a memo to supervisors. But Carona questioned the savings and objected that he hadn't been notified that Rackauckas was considering the change.

The Sheriff's Department provides security for all county buildings and has done so for the district attorney since 1969.

"Obviously, there was some miscommunication," sheriff's spokesman Jon Fleischman said Tuesday. "We feel confident everything will be worked out to everyone's satisfaction."

The district attorney's office did not respond to calls seeking comment.

Though Rackauckas and Carona are both closely tied to Orange County's Republican establishment, their two agencies in recent months have had a chilly relationship.

The son of Assistant Sheriff Don Haidl is being tried by county prosecutors on charges of rape. And the county grand jury -- which operates under the guidance of the district attorney -- has been investigating allegations of possible influence peddling by Carona's office and his 2002 reelection campaign.

The political situation is further complicated by a long-standing rivalry between Carona and Santa Ana Police Chief Paul M. Walters, who lost a race between the two for sheriff in 1998.

The current flap over who best can provide building security "is a classic bureaucratic turf war," said Jack Pitney, a government professor at Claremont McKenna College. "It's possible that it could save money ... but it's also possible that it's a rationale for something else. The lack of notification seems unusual."

Without saying whether prosecutors approached Santa Ana or vice versa, the district attorney's office told supervisors the Police Department could provide the same service at the headquarters at 401 Civic Center Drive for $193,365. The Sheriff's Department estimate was $230,567.

Carona noted in his letter to Wilson that the district attorney's proposal hadn't been approved by the city.

"I do not think the urgency or need for secrecy the district attorney's office is operating under is necessary or in the best interest of the county," Carona wrote.

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