On Tuesday, former County of Orange employee Toni Smart pulled papers to run against her former boss in a bid to unseat the sitting elected Auditor-Controller, Eric Woolery.
As previously reported by the Orange County Register, Smart was terminated from her position as Internal Audit Director for ethical violations and misuse of county resources after an independent County Human Resources investigation found that she had conducted personal business while at work.
According to a lawsuit filed by Smart on January 29, 2018, Smart alleges she was fired for filing a whistleblower complaint against Woolery for bringing his children to the workplace. When asked for a copy of this complaint, County officials could not verify any such complaint had ever been filed by Smart.
When asked why she was seeking the office of Auditor-Controller, Smart stated she was running “to bring integrity back to the office, the way it was under [former Auditor-Controller] David Sundstrom.” Smart went on to say that “the office has become too political.”
When asked to comment, Woolery responded with a written statement:
“The internal audit director should be of the utmost ethical and highest moral standards, beyond reproach. Unfortunately, as determined by County Human Resources (an office independent of my own) and her own union, Ms. Smart habitually acted in an unethical manner and continually violated county policy resulting in her termination. I wish I could expand on the details of her firing, but I am prevented by privacy laws. In the interest of transparency, I encourage Ms. Smart to release her HR documents so that the voters may decide for themselves.
“I believe Ms. Smart has misconstrued my dedication to promoting transparency in this office as ‘political’ and I wonder if this isn’t a stunt to promote her lawsuit against the County, designed to bilk the taxpayers of millions of dollars.”
When asked to comment on the motivations for her lawsuit with regard to her campaign, Smart referred me to her attorney representing her in her case against the County, Devon Lyon. Calls to Ms. Lyon seeking comment were not returned.
According to court documents, Smart was terminated from the County on January 19, 2018. A search of the voter records show Smart re-registered from Republican to a member of the American Independent Party (AIP) on January 25, 2018, just two business days before the filing of Ms. Smart’s lawsuit.
The AIP is a far-right political party best known for its nomination of Alabama Governor George Wallace on a segregationist platform in his failed bid against Richard Nixon in the 1968 presidential election. When asked to comment on her political affiliations and views on segregation, Smart again referred me to her attorney, who did not respond to requests for comment.
Voter records also indicate Smart has voted in only one of the last four elections for Auditor-Controller, the office she seeks. When asked why, Smart stated that she is “not a political person.”