Double Duty In Orange County

HERE'S A DILEMMA. WITH Orange County mired in bankruptcy, four members of its ruling Board of Supervisors also help oversee its largest creditor. Supervisors William Steiner, Roger Stanton, Marian Bergeson, and James Silva sit on the 11-person board of the Orange County Transit Authority, which runs buses and fixes roads. It put $1.1 billion in the ill-fated county investment pool.

As the California county negotiates a payout plan with creditors, the four will likely be voting both as debtors and creditors. The foursome, who declined to comment, serve on the transit board because of a law requiring supervisor representation.

To OCTA CEO Stan Oftelie, there's no problem: Transit and county lawyers have allowed votes in the past when county and agency interests clashed, such as an OCTA suit against the county over liability in bus accidents. The stakes are higher in the bankruptcy arena, but Oftelie says the four can handle both roles fairly. Still, he admits it will be hard for them "not to be personally conflicted." Plus, Oftelie, the chairman of the creditors' committee, says he will be "circumspect" about sharing negotiating strategy with the two-hatters.

A handful of other public-works agencies in the county have similar, if smaller, conflicts. Example: Supervisors fill 2 of the 12 board seats of the San Joaquin Hills Transportation Corridor Agency, which is building a 17-mile toll road.

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