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Orange County CEO William Popejoy Resigns

July 13, 1995

SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) _ Orange County’s chief executive resigned Wednesday, saying politics on the Board of Supervisors made it impossible for him to succeed in leading the county out of bankruptcy.

William Popejoy said he would leave July 31 because the supervisors wanted to diminish his authority. He took over in February hoping to improve the county’s finances in six months.

The 57-year-old retired financier said the reinvolvement of the board in day-to-day operation of the county ``will not allow me or my successor to do the job that is needed to be accomplished.″

Popejoy signed on to work for free after the county was forced into bankruptcy Dec. 6 because of a $1.7 billion loss from risky investments. He has clashed frequently with board members.

Two supervisors, Chairman Gaddi H. Vasquez and Roger R. Stanton, had opposed a half-cent sales tax increase that was the centerpiece of Popejoy’s recovery plan. Voters soundly rejected the tax increase on June 27.

Popejoy had enjoyed near-autonomy. But the board decided to curb his powers last month amidst efforts by two of the five supervisors to fire him. Popejoy said limiting his power reduces him to ``a glorified coordinator.″

``I don’t see that with the alteration of my duties as chief executive officer that that job even exists; so there is no reason for me to remain,″ Popejoy said in his resignation statement.

Vasquez, and supervisors William G. Steiner and Marian Bergeson, said Popejoy’s decision came as a surprise. Supervisors Roger R. Stanton and Jim Silva, who were behind the effort to fire Popejoy last month, weren’t available for comment.

``I think that Bill Popejoy recognized that the quick fix was not there any longer and that there was still a great deal of work to do,″ said Steiner.

Tom Uram, the health services chief who has been helping in the recovery effort, will probably assume Popejoy’s position temporarily until a permanent CEO is found, Steiner said.

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