In January, Riverside County Auditor Controller Paul Angulo alerted the Board of Supervisors to a current and growing financial and emergency situation.

His staff had been studying the cost of multiple legal settlements for Riverside County. In comparison to the other five Southern California counties — Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino, San Diego, and Santa Clara — “we, by far exceed them in settlements,” Angulo advised the supervisors.

“If we’re going to close the budget problem, we’ve got to keep the money we have and fight for the taxpayer,” he added.

Last week, the report from the auditor controller was presented to the board. It identified that Riverside County had paid $136 million in legal settlements during the five years from January 2013 through December 2017. Riverside had the highest per capital settlement cost of the six counties.

Excluding Los Angeles County, the other four counties’ cumulative settlement costs were $121 million.

George Johnson, county executive officer, challenged some of the conclusions and told the board he would have a thorough response in May.

Angulo’s report did not offer specific solutions but the issue required more study given the county’s apparently inordinate costs.

Public safety litigation generated the greatest costs for Riverside County. During this period, it paid nearly $85 million for these types of cases. Los Angeles County paid $185 million, but Orange County’s costs were only $16 million and the settlement costs for the other three counties were less.

For human resource litigation, Riverside County paid $2.9 million, more than 10 times the cost than any of the other counties.

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