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Orange County Now Seeks Help From Accountant It Once Spurned

Sat., March 18, 1995

The accountant whose warnings of financial ruin went unheeded by Orange County voters was sworn in as treasurer Friday, nine months after his defeat at the polls.

“You want me to start tonight? In an hour?” a beaming John M.W. Moorlach asked the county Board of Supervisors.

“Yes!” came a shout from one of the many supporters in the audience.

Last June, Moorlach ran against Treasurer Robert L. Citron and condemned Citron’s risky investments, but Moorlach’s warnings were written off as politics. Citron won his seventh four-year term, beating him by a 3-2 margin.

When interest rates rose sharply late last year, however, the county and 198 other investors in its fund saw their $7.57 billion investments lose $1.69 billion. Citron resigned, and Orange County became the biggest government entity ever to declare bankruptcy.

On Friday, the five-member Board of Supervisors unanimously appointed Moorlach to serve as treasurer until the next regular election, in March 1996.

Moorlach showed “a lot of courage. He called it right. He had the good sense to find experts to assist him with some of the technical aspects,” interim Treasurer Thomas Daxon said earlier this week. “And he did something no one else managed to do: He warned the county.”

The entire Board of Supervisors - including three current members - had endorsed Citron in the last election despite Moorlach’s warnings, pointing to Citron’s years of above-average investment earnings.

Because of the debacle, the county plans to eliminate about 3,000 positions through layoffs and by leaving jobs unfilled. The workforce will be reduced to around 15,200 within three months.

The supervisors are also considering cuts in services, including the closing of at least six libraries, a landfill and a juvenile detention center and a reduction in mental health services.

Tags: budget

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