Lillian Boyd, Dana Point Times
Orange County’s Auditor-Controller, Eric Woolery, passed away on Thursday, Aug. 8, of apparent natural causes, according to a county spokesperson.
The 53-year-old CPA had founded a regional CPA firm specializing in services for small businesses and entrepreneurs. He would later join the public sector by serving on the City of Orange Audit Oversight Committee for 10 years. He then served as the city’s treasurer, helping to enact policy changes to balance employee compensation and benefits. Woolery was elected County Auditor-Controller in June of 2014 by a historic margin of 57% in a field of five candidates and was sworn into office in January 2015. He was re-elected in June of 2018 with a landslide 74% of the vote and was sworn in to his second term in January 2019.
The auditor-controller is the chief accounting officer of the county responsible for budget control, disbursements and receipts, and financial reporting. In addition, this office is responsible for audits of certain agencies within the county.
In 54 of the 58 counties in California (including Orange County), the auditor-controller is an independent, nonpartisan elected office established to provide various accounting and property tax administration services to the county government, special districts, schools and cities.
In 57 of California’s 58 counties, internal audit is part of the auditor-controller’s job. On June 26, 2018, a majority of the members of the Orange County Board of Supervisors voted to remove Internal Audit from the Orange County Auditor-Controller, effective July 1, 2018, making Orange County the only county in the state in which internal audit reports to the Board of Supervisors instead of the auditor-controller.
“I was deeply saddened by the news of his passing. He was an outstanding public servant who fought for government accountability and transparency,” said Orange County Supervisor Lisa Bartlett. “My thoughts and prayers are with his family and loved ones during this difficult time. We will always remember him for his excellent sense of humor, dedication to our county, and fiscal ‘watchdog’ legacy.”
Dana Point City Councilmember Debra Lewis recalls when she had contacted Woolery asking for help to decipher lengthy and complicated financial information.
“Although we had never met or spoken before that, Mr. Woolery did not hesitate. He came to Dana Point with his assistant and plowed through CAFRs and financial statements with me, patiently answering my questions and pointing out areas on which I should concentrate. His help was invaluable,” Lewis said.
He was an immensely popular and exceptional public servant, she added.
“He brought his passion for transparency and accountability to Orange County’s finances. The Board of Supervisors’ vote in June 2018 to take over 300 job positions amounting to two-thirds of Mr. Woolery’s staff is testimonial in itself to the independent, effective and successful watchdog for the taxpayers he was,” Lewis said. “Orange County was lucky to have Mr. Woolery. He will be sorely missed.”
Woolery leaves behind his wife Lisa, his high school sweetheart and wife of 22 years; their two young children, Liam and Kate; and the family dog, Twix, a Labrador retriever. An autopsy will be performed to confirm the cause of death.