Ferreting out public corruption is a noble goal, though public officials know that it can sometimes lead to a career-ending witch hunt. Sometimes, it can also lead to bureaucratic in-fighting that fails to accomplish anything. This is what appears to have happened with a task force that Orange County created to fight local corruption.
Four years ago, local and federal authorities joined forces to create the Orange County Corruption Task Force. The task force was devoted to discovering and prosecuting local political corruption. But just last week, the it disbanded permanently.
A task force dissolves
In 2013, a grand jury declared that Orange County was plagued with government officials who were engaging in misconduct. In response, the district attorney created the Orange County Corruption Task Force to root out perpetrators. But after four years, the task force had successfully brought only one case to trial. What’s more, the Los Angeles Times reports that the anti-corruption task force was plagued with internal conflict between local and federal investigators. On April 21, the district attorney formally dissolved the force. So far, the D.A.’s office has not addressed which cases the task force was involved with or how many cases it investigated.
Corruption charges in Orange County
It remains to be seen whether the D.A.’s office will create a similar task force in the future. For now, the office’s noble goal has come to a frustrating end. Its creation signaled lawmakers’ and investigators’ devotion to finding and punishing corrupt officials. Now, the task force will no longer be available to home in on corruption.
This does not necessarily indicate that corruption in the O.C. will flourish. After all, the task force brought only one case in its entire four years.
Public officials will be able to sleep a little easier knowing that there is no longer a specialized task force devoted to charging public officials with potentially career-ending charges of corruption. Even so, it is important that any public figure or government official who is faced with charges of corruption take every legal option available to defend themselves.