Results from the Public Eye on Luxury

The Orange County Register’s Peggy Lowe has a follow-up this morning on the office upgrades for the three newly elected Supervisors, Moorlach, Bates, and Nguyen.

Supervisor Bates' Office

To recap a little, these three Supervisors and Treasurer/Tax Collector Chriss Street have spent more than $1.5 million on office upgrades since the beginning of the year. Street’s ‘upgrades’, which include the construction of a trading floor in the Treasurer’s office including a glass enclosed office for himself. I could say something about people in glass houses about now, but I’ll leave that for another time.

Among the most notable expenditures by Supervisors was Moorlach’s purchase of furniture for his reception area at $14,229, and the more than $9,200 spent on a cherry wood  workstation and desk organizer for his Chief of Staff Mario Mainero. To put it in perspective, Supervisor Bates’ Executive Workstation cost $4,860.

But the public attention to these upgrades has had some effect.  The order for plasma tv’s that were to be installed in the three Supervisors offices has been cancelled.

Lowe reports:

Public disclosure of the costs is making the newly elected officials nervous. The three supervisors canceled orders for $3,911 flat-screen TVs after reporters inquired about them, a county spokeswoman said. And the two supervisors who were already in office – Chris Norby and Bill Campbell – haven’t done remodeling.

Bob Stern, president of the Center for Governmental Studies, said remodeling of government offices is a favorite media story that often upsets taxpayers. He said he’s not opposed to upgrading public offices as long as the costs are disclosed and appropriate.

“They should have working offices, but clearly they’re not CEOs of private companies where the shareholders are paying the tab,” Stern said.

I agree that the Supervisors and their staff should have functional and appropriate work stations and work environments. But I also know that in the agencies of the County if a manager proposed to expend these amount of funds on office upgrades, their requests would be crushed immediately. 

The standard process, at least in the Health Care Agency where I work, is that if someone wants a desk, file cabinet, or other furnishings, they must first check to see if there is any surplus furniture on hand that will meet their needs.  If there isn’t, then the furniture selections are required to be the most cost effecive of the available options.  By cost effective, I do mean least expensive.

Peggy Lowe’s report continues…

All totaled, the three supervisors have spent $513,566, about half of the nearly $1 million Treasurer-Tax Collector Chriss Street is spending on remodeling his office. Street has built a trading floor outside his glass-enclosed office, ordered top-of-the-line Herman Miller furniture and spent $7,800 on a 52-inch flat-screen TV for his conference room.

Modernizing public offices isn’t necessarily a problem, but officials shouldn’t go first-class, Stern said. Getting an up-to-date digital TV is OK, but prices have gone down, getting a bargain is easy, he said.

“The real question is: Do you go top-of-the-line luxury, or do you go efficient?” Stern said. “Spend appropriately. Make sure it’s cost-effective.”

One other quote from Lowe’s article caught my eye;

There’s still one thing that hasn’t been replaced, to the chagrin of interior designers. Moorlach, who was famously frugal while undoing the damage done by then-Treasurer Bob Citron, who pleaded guilty to wrongdoing in the bankruptcy, still sits in Citron’s chair. Moorlach said he brought if over from the treasurer’s office because he doesn’t worry about ergonomics for himself and that it’s the most comfortable he’s found.

“The interior designer has had me try out a number of chairs,” Moorlach said. “But this is how I like my chair: real simple.”

Interior Designer? WOW! I know we wouldn’t be allowed to requisition that where I work. 


  1. These boondoggling Reds are a danger to our way of life! Taking money from the public till! Hope the poelice union be a-lookin and a-squawking! Moorlach the Warlock magic phone booth cain’t fly away!

  2. Interesting that those who claim to be the champions of fiscal responsibility and protecting the taxpayers (Moorlach and Street) are the biggest spenders when it comes to their own comfort.
    If the offices were in such bad shape, how much did Norby spend when he replaced Coad? How much did “fiscally irresponsible” (he -GASP – voted FOR the state budget) Correa spend to re-do his space when he took over for Chuck Smith?
    Do they still have the private elevator in the building that is strictly for the use of the 5 supes?
    Public servants, indeed.

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