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O.C. chief exec may be fired in fallout from Bustamante's arrest

A closed supervisors meeting is requested to discuss possibly firing Tom Mauk just days after former county administrator Carlos Bustamante is charged in sex assaults.

July 06, 2012|By Nicole Santa Cruz, Los Angeles Times
  • Santa Ana City Councilman Carlos Bustamante, left, makes his first court appearance Thursday with his attorney, James Riddet. Bustamante is accused of sexually assaulting women while he worked as an Orange County administrator.
Santa Ana City Councilman Carlos Bustamante, left, makes his first court… (Mark Boster / Los Angeles…)

Orange County's chief executive officer could be terminated in response to allegations that a former county administrator sexually harassed at least seven women over the span of eight years on and around government property.

In a memo Thursday, Board of Supervisors Chairman John Moorlach requested a special closed session on Friday to discuss the possible discipline or termination of Tom Mauk and the appointment of an interim county executive officer.

The move comes after Carlos Bustamante, a Santa Ana city councilman and former administrator in the county public works department, was charged this week with 12 felonies, including stalking, attempted sexual battery by restraint and six counts of false imprisonment.

Moorlach would not discuss the reasons for the session, citing the Brown Act, but said "there could be a correlation" between the allegations and the agenda items.

"We just need some time for the five of us to discuss personnel matters," he said of himself and the other supervisors. He also noted that Mauk, 68, is near retirement age.

Prosecutors allege that Bustamante, 47, used his power as an administrator in the county's public works department to intimidate women.

He is accused of luring employees into his office under the pretense of discussing work-related matters, then sexually assaulting them.

The investigation into Bustamante's behavior was sparked by an anonymous letter sent to supervisors last fall. Lawyers hired by the county, along with an internal auditor, investigated the allegations. In October, Bustamante resigned from his county post, and in March, Bustamante's supervisor, Jess Carbajal, was placed on paid administrative leave.

That same month, supervisors asked the Orange County district attorney's office to investigate, which culminated in Bustamante's arrest Monday.

At a hearing Thursday, a judge granted a prosecutor's request for a restraining order to keep Bustamante from contacting his accusers.

Bustamante's attorney, James Riddet, also requested a gag order in the case, but that was denied by Judge Gerald G. Johnston. Riddet said Orange County Dist. Atty. Tony Rackauckas is impeding Bustamante's right to a fair trial by releasing detailed, harmful and prejudicial information about the case to the media.

"I've never believed we should try the case in the media," Riddet said. "I believe we should try the case in the courtroom."

He pointed to Bustamante's arrest, which was recorded and distributed to numerous news outlets.

Rackauckas said Bustamante is a public official in a public office so it is necessary to let people know about the allegations.

"I don't think we crossed any lines," Rackauckas said after Thursday's hearing, which marked Bustamante's first court appearance.

Riddet told reporters that Rackauckas has released "lurid details" about unproven allegations. "I'm very hopeful that this practice will stop," Riddet said. He then added that he will be limiting his statements about the case to the courtroom.

Bustamante did not enter a plea. His arraignment was postponed until July 26.

Michele Martinez has served on the Santa Ana City Council with Bustamante for six years. She said the charges put the city in a "very bad position" and called for his resignation.

"These allegations are criminal; they are serious," she said. "They have been talked about for many years."

nicole.santacruz@latimes.com

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