Wednesday, April 28, 2010
District Attorney Disputes Claims of Animosity Toward Union
By SHERRI M. OKAMOTO, Staff Writer
District Attorney Steve Cooley yesterday conceded his personal dislike of Association of Deputy District Attorneys President Stephen J. Ipsen, but flatly denied his animosity extended to the union itself during his public testimony before Los Angeles County Employee Relations Commission.
The proceeding stemmed from allegations by the ADDA and Vice President Marc Debbaudt that Cooley and his administration discriminate against the union and its supporters, and much of Cooley’s four-and-a-half hours of testimony addressed a conversation he had in October 2008 with Deputy District Attorney Robert Dver, the former assistant head deputy of the training division, in which Cooley allegedly instructed the prosecutor to undermine the union’s efforts.
Cooley acknowledged making profanity-laced remarks disparaging Ipsen and the union during the conversation, but said he was under the impression Dver had come to him as a long-time friend seeking advice on whether to become involved with the fledging organization.
“I told him to stay away from those guys,” Cooley testified. “These were not the kind of people you want to be associated with.”
His comments, he explained, were based on his knowledge of Ipsen and various situations which caused him “concern” regarding Ipsen’s character and judgment, including suspicions that the prosecutor had abused his office to further his efforts to oust two Superior Court judges and influence the charges brought against three men who allegedly assaulted Ipsen’s friend.
Cooley also recounted instances where Ipsen testified as a character witness on behalf of a thrice-convicted sex offender, “abandoned” a homicide case and may have violated election laws by distributing political advertisements without the requisite disclosures regarding the financing and backing of the statements made.
ERCOM hearing officer Thomas Kerrigan, however, said he was “not going to be impressed” by this evidence if Cooley “didn’t do anything,” and repeatedly inquired as to why Ipsen had received a favorable performance evaluation, signed by Cooley, if he was “screwing up” so frequently.
Kerrigan read some of the comments from Ipsen’s 1993 evaluation, which rated him “outstanding” overall, and asked, “That is your idea of an employee that needs help?”
“Oh, he needs a lot of help, and there’s been a lot of water under the bridge since 1993.”
Failure to Appear
Kerrigan questioned Cooley about his failure to appear at three prior hearings, although Deputy County Counsel Julie Dixon Silva explained Cooley had provided a declaration in one instance, was out of the country in another, and that the third had been continued due to a death in her family.
After the hearing adjourned for the day, counsel for the union, Encino attorney Richard A. Shinee of Green & Shinee, commented that the yesterday’s testimony provided “a lopsided view that hasn’t been challenged” and opined that Cooley’s testimony “will prove to be disingenuous when subjected to cross examination” at a later date.
The hearing is expected to continue today, with Cooley returning to the stand next month.
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