Published: Aug. 29, 2010
Updated: Aug. 30, 2010 6:49 a.m.

By FRANK MICKADEIT
THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER

Did anybody really think D.A. Tony Rackauckas ‘s anointment of Todd Spitzer to replace him in four years was going to go smoothly?

Well, naïve little me thought it might. But under either of the two prevailing theories as to why T-Rack fired Spitzer on Friday, this was a marriage that was doomed.

To recap: Spitzer, after agreeing not to run against T-Rack in 2006 or 2010, was brought into the D.A.’s office last year with the understanding that he would rotate through various jobs, learning the ropes. T-Rack would then endorse him in 2014. As recently as a couple of months ago, T-Rack had said that was his intent.

That all collapsed on Friday when, according to Spitzer, he was summoned to T-Rack’s 10th-floor office, where the D.A. told him he had mishandled an interaction with the Public Administrator/Guardian’s Office and was being fired. He said T-Rack would not discuss his reasoning or methodology, but simply had him turn in his badge and I.D. and be escorted from the building.

Version One: Public Administrator/Guardian John Williams said Spitzer tried to get private information about an elder-abuse case Williams’ office was working on “by claiming there was a legitimate law-enforcement purpose, using his current title as prosecutor, stating he was a former assemblyman and a county supervisor, and saying he knew me personally. This conduct is unacceptable and cannot be tolerated.” This complaint went to T-Rack, who blew his stack.

Those who subscribe to this version would point to Spitzer’s history of abrasive behavior, going all the way back to his days on the Brea school board. When he believes he’s right, he doesn’t back down, which is OK when you are an elected official. It’s not OK when you work for an elected official. Spitzer exceeded his authority and had to go. Obviously, this is basically the T-Rack-Williams version

Version Two: Spitzer did nothing wrong. Not surprisingly, this is Spitzer’s version. A woman Spitzer didn’t know called Spitzer in need of help regarding a friend of hers who might be the victim of elder abuse. The caller (quoted on Voice of OC) says she picked Spitzer because he had a reputation as a fighter. Spitzer said he talked to Williams’ chief investigator, was satisfied her agency was handling the case, said thanks and hung up.

“I have every legal right as a law-enforcement officer to ask for the information,” Spitzer told me Sunday. “I had an absolute law-enforcement purpose. I talk to social workers all the time.”

If his inquiry was beyond what he had a right to know, he says, why did the chief investigator send him an email seemingly having no problem giving him information? He gave me a copy. It reads, in whole, “Hi Todd, Our office received your message regarding the above case. I attempted to contact you at your office – voicemail was full, so I left a message on your cell. I will be in a meeting most of the morning. Please feel free to email me and I am sure I can answer any questions you may have. I will get back to you as soon as possible. Thank you.”

The big question now: What’s next?

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