Tuesday, October 25, 2011

'Dear Tri-City': OC supervisor's NC ghost writer responds to broadside

'Dear Tri-City': OC supervisor's NC ghost writer responds to broadside
Logan Jenkins
Oct. 25, 2011

A contender, if not the favorite, for my “Poison Pen Letter of the Year” award was received by Bill Campbell, chairman of the Orange County board of supervisors.

The undersigned on the thrillingly cheap shot are RoseMarie Reno, chair of the Tri-City Healthcare District’s board of directors, and Larry Anderson, the hospital district’s CEO.

The target is Leon Page, a Carlsbad resident (and Orange County deputy counsel) who sent a “cease and desist” letter, the precursor of a lawsuit, to Tri-City after the board majority voted to banish two recalcitrant members — Kathleen Sterling and Randy Horton — from closed meetings.

Surely not a regular fan of Tri-City’s follies, Campbell must have been nonplused as how to respond. He quickly passed the venom-soaked letter to Page’s boss, County Counsel Nick Chrisos, who told me he had never read anything remotely like it. (In case you’re wondering, that’s not a compliment.)

On a pro bono basis, I’m offering Campbell a draft of the letter he should send to Tri-City.


Thank you for your letter in which you ask the Orange County board of supervisors to investigate the unethical behavior of Leon Page.

I take it you would like us to probe and punish Page. Judging by the urgency of your complaint, you would consider flogging with bicycle chains a suitable disciplinary measure.

You note that Page has initiated legal actions against two government agencies — Tri-City and MiraCosta College. What Page says is his altruistic “hobby” you evidently see as a form of treason to the public sector.

The merits of Page’s public-interest actions, which he conducts on his own time, don’t appear to matter to you. An attorney on the public payroll should always side with his public-sector “team.”

It’s my understanding, however, that Page sued MiraCosta to claw back money that a high court ultimately agreed was a gift of public funds to an outgoing president.

You focus solely on the “adverse legal interests” Page’s lawsuit visited upon the college, not the public good of a sane precedent to protect agencies from someone who threatens to sue if a contractually limited severance package is not sweetened.

You also imply that Page may be a shakedown artist, a grifter in cahoots with Ron Cozad, a North County attorney whom Page retained for the legal work in the MiraCosta case.

Specifically, you suggest (without proof) that Page is a frontman for Cozad, filing lawsuits against public agencies and then, when lavish attorney fees are awarded, Page taking a secret cut.

You insinuate, again without evidence, that Mr. Page may be on the take from the two banished directors. You also pose the ominous possibility that Page’s real ambition is “to destroy the District’s reputation and operations for the benefit of competing hospitals in South Orange County.”

You take pains to accuse Page and Cozad of shoddy research because they failed to appreciate how disruptive these two board members are and how necessary their exile is from secret sessions even if their absence does deny represenation to the voters who elected them.

To sound authoritative, you cite legal precedents for the summary removal of elected officials and suggest that Orange County’s right to ostracize troublesome pols is threatened if I’m on the same page as Page, so to speak.

Finally, you ask me “to take corrective actions” against Page “and notify us of actions taken.”

Let’s start at the end. No corrective action is planned. Consider yourself notified of that fact. Remember the old saying about throwing mud at a wall? Well, nothing is sticking in the OC.

By the way, I’ve read clippings that celebrated Page for his role in cleaning up the MiraCosta scandal. One Union-Tribune columnist — Loren Jennings perhaps? — tagged Page as a North County Hero of the Year.

Frankly, I consider your arguments bizarre at best; at worst, un-American. (I come from one of the most conservative counties in the nation. We talk like that.)

About the only thing I can say in your favor is that you’re trying to spend as little money as possible in keeping a sinking ship from sinking. Faint praise, I know.

You suggest that we in Orange County should be worried about our freedom to punish disorderly elected officials. We don’t have problems with decorum. We don’t have a board member attending meetings via telephone; another who uses an apparently fake title of “Doctor”; and yet another, a nurse, with a dicey record accounting for pills.

And those last two are among the majority who banned the pair of dissidents.

The way to get rid of bad elected officials is through the polls. If I may be so bold, it isn’t your job to slam the boardroom door on your political rivals whenever you get the willies.

In my humble opinion, you should be grateful that one of the OC’s best attorneys is offering you free legal advice.

Take it!

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