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Orange County CEO Popejoy Resigns; Uram Likely Temporary Successor

July 13, 1995

SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) _ The retired financier who volunteered to oversee Orange County’s financial affairs after its bankruptcy filing is quitting at the end of the month.

William Popejoy said Wednesday he was resigning effective July 31 as the county’s chief executive because the Board of Supervisors had undermined his ability to lead the county out of bankruptcy.

Orange County health commissioner Tom Uram would likely assume the CEO position for the time being, officials said.

Popejoy, 57, signed on to work for free after the county sought bankruptcy court protection on Dec. 6. The filing came after risky investments resulted in a $1.7 billion loss to its investment pool.

He had advocated a sales tax increase that was soundly defeated by voters June 27.

Early in his tenure, he had near-autonomy. A contract clause required the votes of four of the five supervisors to fire him. But when the board decided to curb his powers last month, he became nothing more than ``a glorified coordinator,″ he said.

``Reinvolvement of the board in day-to-day operation is, in my opinion, a return to the management structure which existed prior to the creation of a CEO and will not allow me or my successor to do the job that is needed to be accomplished,″ Popejoy said in his resignation announcement.

In an interview, he said, ``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.″

Three supervisors, Chairman Gaddi H. Vasquez, William J. Steiner and Marian Bergeson, said Popejoy’s decision came as a surprise.

``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.

``He’s made a good contribution, but Orange County will come through, whether Bill Popejoy is here or not,″ Steiner said.

Supervisors Roger R. Stanton and Jim Silva, who were behind the effort to fire Popejoy last month, weren’t available for comment.

Popejoy, a Newport Beach financier, helped start the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp., a federal agency that buys and sells home loans. He was also chairman of American Savings and Loan in the 1980s and was credited with keeping the thrift alive after it ran into loan and securities problems.

Replacing Ernie Schneider, the county’s chief administrative officer at the time of the bankruptcy, Popejoy took over in February hoping the situation could be turned around in six months.

He clashed frequently with board members, particularly Silva and Stanton. Both opposed the half-cent sales tax increase that was the centerpiece of Popejoy’s recovery plan.

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