Madera County supervisors will meet Monday morning to discuss and decide whether to publicly censure District Attorney David Linn over allegations of harassment, discrimination and abuse of his staff.
Linn claims the action is “political retaliation” for his stance against government corruption and his preparation to prosecute two supervisors — Brett Frazier and David Rogers — for wrongdoing, and has filed a petition with Madera County Superior Court “demanding a fully litigated adversarial hearing” on the accusations and a press release from the board about them.
That statement, released by Madera County Counsel Regina Garza, said several employees have claimed Linn has “engaged in a pattern of harassing and abusive conduct … on a consistent and routine basis” since taking office in early 2015. The statement was sent out five minutes after a closed meeting finished between the board and Linn on Tuesday, Linn said.
According to the county, it recently retained attorney Kimberly Horiuchi of the law firm Liebert Cassidy Whitmore to independently investigate allegations of workplace misconduct made by Senior Deputy District Attorney John Baker. A Nov. 20 summary of her findings supported claims that Linn “engaged in abusive or threatening conduct in the workplace” and repeatedly made “sexist or sexually explicit comments to and about employees and female crime victims” as well as “racist and racially insensitive comments.”
The full report of the investigation has not been released.
Linn denied any misconduct. “We have had virtually no turnover during my administration,” he said, “and in fact the majority of the Madera County deputy district attorneys have endorsed me for re-election.”
However Linn will face off against one of his former prosecutors, Fresno County murder prosecutor Sally Moreno of the Madera Ranchos, in the upcoming primary election of June 5, 2018. Moreno worked in the Madera County District Attorney’s office from 2011-2015, including six months under Linn.
The head of the deputy district attorney’s union said it is reconsidering its endorsement of Linn’s re-election, according to KFSN-TV.
The district attorney insists the board’s action came as a surprise. “I had been told for over a month I was not a subject for investigation or action,” Linn said. “The chief administrative officer of the county, Eric Fleming, told me that the investigation and meeting was about the conduct of one disgruntled employee, who had previously made claims about the district attorneys of Tuolumne and Stanislaus counties.”
Baker, who was rehired by Linn in December 2015, previously worked at Stanislaus County as a deputy district attorney, according to a 2015 statement by Linn’s office. Tuolumne County District Attorney’s Office was unavailable for comment due to the Thanksgiving holiday, and Stanislaus County’s office did not respond before the holiday.
According to Linn, “the county has been trying to get rid of” the “disgruntled employee” for six months.
Linn said the board’s action are a pre-emptive strike against his own anti-corruption efforts, including plans to prosecute Frazier and Rogers. “One is for political practice violation and the other is for developer favors,” said Linn.
However, according to KFSN-TV, district attorney staff claim Rogers is not under investigation, and nothing criminal has been found in an investigation of Frazier.
“There was an inquiry by a disgruntled developer out of the Rio Mesa area who was upset that the county was requiring him to have two points of access,” said Frazier. “He sent in an inquiry to D.A. Linn after they spoke about it at one of David’s fundraisers ... to look into my house purchase from McCaffrey (Homes). So I allowed the investigator to come to my house and showed where every upgrade and stick was paid for. There was no deal.”
Rogers said he had heard nothing about any corruption inquiry until Linn’s statements Tuesday.
“No citizen is above the law. He needs to examine himself and own up to what he’s done,” said Rogers. “I’m not going to be intimidated by false accusations in a suddenly trumped up investigation … The tail’s trying to wag the dog.”
Frazier said Linn had told him in front of others that there was nothing to the claim against the supervisor and the county would settle it.
“I knew he would use it (against me) even with our decision point in front of us,” Frazier said Wednesday, “and I would make the same decision today that I made yesterday, even with the fallout of him saying he has a corruption investigation ongoing. The truth will speak for itself, and he will have to answer for the way that he behaves to his office.”
Linn claimed the timing of the board’s planned meeting on his censure and its prior regular meeting Tuesday was deliberately set for when he had planned to be out of state for the Thanksgiving holiday.
“We acted with all speed and it was a high priority,” said Rogers. “Because anytime you hear these kinds of allegations you’ve got to protect those involved immediately … We’re not talking about one person here. We’re talking about multiple people here saying the same thing.”
The proposed censure formally asks Linn to cease his misconduct and to resign.
According to the county’s official statement, censure is an “extremely limited and corrective action” being considered because the board of supervisors lacks the authority to fire an elected official for “serious workplace misconduct.”
Time has been set aside for public comment at the start of Monday’s upcoming 9 a.m. special meeting at the Madera County Government Center, 200 West 4th St.
Linn has announced a press conference to be held immediately after the board’s meeting. His petition to superior court for a contested hearing has been served to the clerk of the board and to county counsel, he said, and “we expect at least 35 witnesses.”
Frazier said he was not surprised to hear of the petition.
“He’s an attorney. That’s what he does,” he said. “He’s in a corner and instead of taking responsibility for his actions he’s going to try to unleash a scorched earth campaign to exonerate himself. At the end of the day, it’s not going to work.”