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Amid sex scandal, top O.C. official gets $270,000 severance

Orange County's top official will receive a hefty severance after resigning Thursday amid criticism of how government leaders handled allegations that a public works executive sexually assaulted women.

After an hours-long closed session, Supervisor John Moorlach emerged to announce Chief Executive Tom Mauk's resignation, effective Aug. 3.

Mauk will receive about $270,000 in severance in exchange for not suing the county. His county contract was set to expire in October 2013. He made $271,000, including benefits, each year. "We had to come up with an amount that was agreeable to the five of us and to him," Moorlach said.

It's the latest in a series of departures from county government since Santa Ana City Councilman Carlos Bustamante was charged with 12 felonies and four misdemeanors in connection with the alleged battery and sexual assault of seven of his subordinates.

The charges have raised serious questions about how the county handles internal investigations. In the Bustamante case, one investigation was assigned to a subordinate staff member, and another was quietly filed away for months. The findings were turned over to prosecutors with the Orange County district attorney's office in March, a full year after the first allegations about Bustamante's behavior surfaced.

Earlier Thursday, Bustamante appeared in court and pleaded not guilty to six felony counts of false imprisonment, three felony counts of assault with intent to commit a sexual offense, and single counts of stalking, attempted sexual battery by restraint and grand theft involving misuse of public funds. He also faces misdemeanor charges of sexual battery, assault and battery.

Bustamante, a councilman since 2004, has maintained his innocence since resigning last fall from his post as an executive in the public works department.

With Mauk's departure, each person who oversaw Bustamante has either left county government or gone on leave. Bustamante's supervisor, Jess Carbajal, was fired earlier this month. Deputy Chief Executive Alisa Drakodaidis has taken a medical leave after submitting a scathing letter to supervisors alleging abuses within county government. The letter has not been released to the public.

Bob Franz, the county's chief financial officer, will serve as the acting chief executive until Sept. 11. The Board of Supervisor plans to hire an outside firm to help with the national recruitment of a permanent replacement.

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-- Nicole Santa Cruz

 
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