John S. Williams, Orange County’s locked-out public administrator, selected a retirement date that would boost his pension income when he negotiated his departure with the county’s leadership, the county said in court papers Monday.
The papers were filed hours before Orange County Superior Court Judge William Monroe denied Williams’ emergency petition for immediate reinstatement to his elected office and told the parties to come back to court in March for further hearings.
Thomas Mauk, the county’s top executive, said in a declaration filed before Monday’s hearing that a confidential review of the Public Administrator/Public Guardian office prepared by outside attorney Michael Colantuono at the county’s request “revealed that actions taken by (Williams) had created significant financial and liability risks for the county.”
Colantuono’s report also showed that Williams’ attorney, Philip Greer, “had been given access to highly confidential PA/PG case files, including Adult Protective Services referral reports,” in violation of the state’s Welfare and Institutions Code, Mauk’s declaration says.
Greer didn’t immediately return two phone calls seeking comment on Mauk’s declaration.
Mauk’s statements, made under penalty of perjury, bolster the county’s argument that Williams agreed to retire from his elected post as part of a deal with the county’s Board of Supervisors, and that Williams is now attempting to renege on that deal.
Williams contends he never resigned or retired and was merely contemplating retirement when he wrote last March to Bill Campbell, then chairman of the Board of Supervisors, stating “It is my intention to retire as Public Administrator – Public Guardian on Jan. 23, 2012.”
After Colantuono delivered his confidential report in February 2011, Williams and Greer began negotiations with Mauk and the Board of Supervisors on Williams’ resignation, Mauk said. All parties to the negotiations “understood and agreed that (Williams) would resign to avoid disclosure of the Colantuano report and to minimize the county’s liability exposure,” Mauk said.
“However, (Williams) wanted to extend the period he received his full county compensation in order to enhance his pension benefit, based on his years of service as a community college district trustee,” Mauk said.
“Ultimately, (Williams) suggested that he would resign if the county agreed to extend his salary through Jan. 23, 2012, a date (Williams) suggested, apparently because it enabled (Williams) to qualify for a more generous retirement benefit through the Orange County Employees Retirement System,” Mauk said. “To obtain (Williams’) resignation, the county accepted (Williams’) offer to retire effective Jan. 23, 2012.”
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Leon Page, a deputy county counsel who represented the county at Monday’s hearing, said in an email that Williams’ pension benefit “was apparently tied, in some way,” to Williams’ 18 years on the South Orange County Community College Board of Trustees. Williams resigned from that board in December 2010.
Page said he didn’t know how much Williams’ agreement with the county boosted his pension benefit. “Over the next few weeks, we hope to conduct discovery that should provide the answers to these and other questions,” he said.
Williams and the county are due back in Monroe’s courtroom on March 13. In the meantime, the parties will conduct discovery, including taking Williams’ deposition. The Public Administrator/Public Guardian office will continue to be managed by Lucille Lyon, a veteran estate administrator who was appointed by the Board of Supervisors last July.
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Williams, 60, has served as the county’s elected public administrator since 2003. He had also served as the appointed public guardian until the Board of Supervisors fired him from that role in June.
As public administrator, Williams earned salary and other pay of $153,558.44 annually.