For the next few months, Orange County supervisors can spend their offices’ funding and represent residents in the districts that elected them — as well as their redrawn districts created late last year.
That leeway is the result of a months-long kerfuffle between a majority of the five-member board and District 2 Supervisor Katrina Foley, who had questioned the board’s move to kick her out of the district where she won office in March 2021 and assign her to a new one with no overlap.
Soon after supervisors redrew district boundaries in November, as required by law every 10 years, the new map went into effect and board members began representing the newly configured districts. But some of them complained that Foley was using her office’s resources in her old district, potentially shortchanging residents in the new one.
In April, supervisors approved a new rule that said they could only use district resources in their “current” district. So when state Attorney General Rob Bonta recently issued an opinion that supervisors represent their old districts until the next regular election, Foley challenged the spending restriction.
On Tuesday, the board took up the issue and voted 3-2 to nix the spending rule, with the no votes from District 3 Supervisor Don Wagner and District 5 Supervisor Lisa Bartlett.
Bartlett said more changes would cause confusion for residents, and Wagner criticized Bonta’s opinion as rushed and politically motivated. (Foley and Bonta are both Democrats.)
The attorney general’s opinion “has zero legal binding effect on us,” and supervisors have the discretion to make their own rules about how county money is spent, Wagner maintained.
But District 1 Supervisor Andrew Do — who three months ago supported the district spending rule — said Bonta and the county’s attorney agreed that a supervisor can only be recalled by the voters who elected them; therefore, until the next election, the supervisor has a responsibility to those voters.
“It makes no sense to say I’m accountable to that district, and yet I can’t go in there and represent them,” Do said. “‘Represent’ means everything that’s included in our work as county supervisor.”
After the decision, Foley said in a statement: “This is not about politics — this is about the voters who are entitled to their duly-elected representatives.”
She said she plans to complete initiatives she started in the old district, before the lines changed, and also to serve as a “caretaker” for her new district.
If any of that debate seems confusing, not to worry: The November election under the new district boundaries will change the board’s makeup and likely render the issue moot — and it may not come up again until the next redistricting cycle in 2030.