Monday, April 11, 2011

Bonnie Dumanis: D.A.'s Public Integrity Unit: Not So Public Lately

The prosecution of Kathleen Sterling is worrisome. Almost immediately after Sterling and other Tri-City Healthcare board members fired a group of administrators in December 2008, powerful friends of the fired individuals began asking Dumanis to file criminal charges against members of the board who voted in favor of the firings. Bonnie Dumanis did not respond to the first two attempts to involve the criminal justice system in the matter, preferring to allow the case to make its way through the civil courts. But apparently the third time is a charm. Does this have anything to do with the mayoral campaign and/or efforts to change the makeup of the Tri-City board?

D.A.'s Public Integrity Unit: Not So Public Lately

April 10, 2011
by Will Carless
Voice of San Diego

District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis' website for her recently announced mayoral campaign waxes lyrical about the prosecutor's protection of the public, high conviction rates and strong managerial and organizational skills.

Not mentioned in the list of accomplishments is the District Attorney's Public Integrity Unit, a crack team of lawyers Dumanis set up with much fanfare in the spring of 2007 as a weapon against San Diego's image as a den of political iniquity and corruption.

Indeed, four years after the unit was created, San Diegans would be forgiven for wondering whether it actually still exists. Since the controversial — and largely botched — prosecution of Chula Vista Councilman Steve Castaneda in 2008, Dumanis' team of anti-corruption lawyers has been remarkably low-profile.

Dumanis says the unit has hardly been slacking off. Her office provided a list of 88 public integrity prosecutions since 2007 as evidence that complaints are being investigated. And Dumanis and her public integrity czar Leon Schorr stressed that most of the work of the Public Integrity Unit is investigative and doesn't necessarily result in prosecutions.

But 85 of the 88 prosecutions listed by Dumanis involved rank-and-file public employees, not politicians or elected officials, who were the original stated targets of the Public Integrity Unit. Lumped into the successes of the unit are cases against police officers and city employees, and for attorney misconduct.

In four years, three elected officials have been prosecuted by Dumanis' office and, so far, only one of those prosecutions has resulted in punitive action: Earlier this year former Encinitas Mayor Dan Dalager was fined $1,000 for receiving discounted kitchen appliances from a resident he assisted while in office.

Dumanis proposed the Public Integrity Unit as a new and necessary weapon in the local prosecutorial arsenal, and warned crooked politicians that she would be watching them, and that they'd better behave.

Driving home the point that this was to be a unit that would specifically target politicians, Dumanis said at the same press conference that she would no longer be endorsing political candidates, and that her office would not be used as a political pawn. She later endorsed in several important races, including the 2008 city attorney's race, in which she backed Jan Goldsmith against Mike Aguirre...

In 2008, Chula Vista Councilman Steve Castaneda was also accused by the Public Integrity Unit of using his office for financial gain, but investigators found no wrongdoing by the councilman. Castaneda was then charged with perjury for allegedly lying to the grand jury that investigated him. A jury acquitted him of most of the charges and hung on two of them, which Dumanis chose not to pursue.

Castaneda accused Dumanis at the time of prosecuting him at the behest of his political rival, Chula Vista Mayor Cheryl Cox.

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