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Top Ten Stories of the 1990s

December 30, 1999

lawsuit filed by four women employees of the Police Department.

Murphy and other city officials were incredulous at first, defending

the chief and portraying the women as disgruntled employees.

But before it was over, the scandal would spill across the newspaper

headlines daily with details of alleged lewd conduct by the two men,

including one instance where a dispatcher accused the pair of raping her

after a 1981 party at the Bonita Canyon landfill.


The department's morale sunk to new lows during the controversy. City

officials and business leaders seemed torn over their longtime support

for the chief. Long-standing officers aired their deep-seeded grievances

and ultimately the rank-and-file officers put the icing on the cake by

issuing a 90% vote of no confidence for Campbell.

Murphy wound up firing Campbell and Villa, then -- faced with a long,

grueling civil lawsuit -- later did an about-face and made a deal with

both officers and their attorneys to rehire them back and retire them

with their pensions and benefits intact.

As for the women, the total who joined the suit swelled to 10 and a

city investigation dug up even more who said they suffered from Campbell

and Villa's alleged antics. And while they all wound up with cash

settlements from the city, many saw their careers in law enforcement


Today, the remnants of the ugliness that besieged the department are

long gone, and Chief Bob McDonell, hired by Murphy to restore the

department's morale, prefers to keep that old news where it belongs. In

history's scrap heap.

5. ORANGE COUNTY BANKRUPTCY. On Dec. 6, 1994, Orange County's perfect

little world came crashing down.

The county, known for its wealthy, successful residents who live in

million-dollar coastal homes, filed for the largest municipal bankruptcy

in U.S. history. The filing came five days after rising interest rates

caused its risky, high-yield investment fund to crash, losing $1.5

billion in money from 180 public agencies.

Among those agencies were the cities of Newport Beach and Costa Mesa,

as well as the Newport-Mesa Unified School District. The district had $82

million invested -- $47 million of which it borrowed specifically to put

in the pool. Costa Mesa had about $3 million tied up and Newport Beach

had $16 million. In the five years since, they have recovered most of it,

but officials acknowledge they will never get all of it back.

If only they had listened to John Moorlach, the Costa Mesa certified

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