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County treasurer candidate defends bankruptcy role

May 30, 2006|By Alicia Robinson

Before Moorlach named him assistant treasurer in January, he was a bond trader and worked on restructuring organizations in financial trouble, he said. He has testified in court as a forensic accountant, and he began investigating former Orange County Treasurer Bob Citron before the county's 1994 bankruptcy, which was caused by Citron's risky investments.

Street had planned to run for treasurer in 1994, but he dropped out to back Moorlach, who lost to Citron but was appointed to replace him the following year.

From 1996 to 1999 Street helped extricate the Orange County employees' pension system from a series of bad investments, helping to turn a $300 million deficit into a $600 million surplus, he said.

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"This is clearly a campaign where I represent the taxpayer in John Moorlach's tradition," he said.

Moorlach said despite the legal issues he's still comfortable with Street as his potential successor. He appointed Street after five other people who considered running for treasurer dropped out and the field was otherwise clear, he said. Desmond filed candidacy papers just before the deadline.

"I am much more comfortable with the capabilities and skill set of Chriss Street than I am with Patrick Desmond," Moorlach said.

Desmond said he decided to run because he "was asked by the rank and file" of the treasurer's office. He worked there briefly in 2002 before joining the county assessor's office later that year. He now represents that office in taxpayer appeals.

"I kind of always had it in the back of my mind that I could get into politics, and it kind of accelerated when I got into appeals," Desmond said.

Moorlach has done a good job setting up internal controls in the office, so Desmond doesn't expect to make big changes there, he said.

"I don't see that it's broken right now," he said. "I'm not going in there to put out a fire."

Desmond sought and was given endorsements by the Orange County Employees Assn. and the Orange County Deputy Sheriffs Assn., he said, but he hasn't promised them anything if he wins.

"If there were no unions in this picture, I still would be talking about my concern about Chriss Street. There are many concerns and if he's elected treasurer-tax collector, what's Wall Street going to think? He's got so many legal problems," Desmond said. "Is everyone really comfortable with that?"

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