Tuesday, April 3, 2012
Candidate Meyers Accuses Steve Cooley of Promoting Cronies in Office
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Danette Meyers, a candidate for Los Angeles County district attorney, has charged that incumbent Steve Cooley makes promotions of deputies based on cronyism, including favoritism toward financial contributors and drinking buddies.
The deputy district attorney’s allegation came at a candidate forum Saturday afternoon, staged at an El Segundo hotel by the Los Angeles chapters of the Police Officers’ Research Association of California. Meyers also used the occasion to raise the possibility that Cooley’s office singles out racial minorities for prosecutions by the Public Integrity Division and to stress her Democratic Party ties.
Other candidates participating were Chief Deputy District Attorney Jackie Lacey and Deputy District Attorney Alan Jackson.
Los Angeles City Attorney Carmen Trutanich, also seeking to succeed Cooley (who is not running), declined an invitation to participate.
Meyers, in addressing a question as to what she would do differently from what Cooley’s administration is doing, said:
“I would change the way the promotional process is done in our office. I would put criteria to promotions. I would not allow people to be promoted because they gave the DA money, because they were friends of the DA, or because they went out drinking with the DA. And, unfortunately, the environment in our office is such.”
She also said she would make changes in the assignment of deputies to cases in the Juvenile Court, declaring:
“What I would do is to put DAs in those courts who want to be in those courts, as opposed to penalizing people who are not friendly to the administration, throwing them in juvenile courts, and then putting less experienced prosecutors in those courts.”
Meyers reiterated her campaign pledge to restore the department’s environmental unit.
Relations With Union
Jackson pledged to end warring between the administration and the Association of Deputy District Attorneys, a union.
“The thing that I would change most readily is the broken or fractured relationship…between the ADDA and the current administration,” Jackson declared, adding:
“I think it’s incumbent upon the new administration, when I am district attorney, to sit down, clear the table, invite the ADDA board to the table and say, ‘Let’s start again. Let’s begin a new communication.’ ”
He said it harms the office for those in it to be “fighting among ourselves, and certainly making a public fight.”
Lacey, who holds the highest position in the office other than Cooley, pointed to changes she would make.
“With regard to [a] government agency, I think there can never be too much transparency,” she remarked. “I would change the degree of transparency inside the office and out by putting out more information, in-house, to let people know what’s going on, but also outside, so that people will understand all of the things that we’re doing.”
With respect to identity theft, the chief deputy said:
“I would like to see this office get much more aggressive in those types of crimes.”
Public Integrity Unit
Meyers stopped short of alleging racism in prosecutions by the Public Integrity Unit of her office. She said:
“I believe that public corruption is a problem. I believe that Bell is the perfect example. But I think that when you go after the officials of Bell and you forget to go after the sheriff because the sheriff is a friend of yours, I think you have…the perception of unfairness by the community. And the sheriff of Bell I don’t think is a person of color. I think the community looks at that.”
(In referring to the “sheriff,” Meyers apparently had in mind former Bell Police Chief Randy Adams. Corruption charges were brought against eight Bell officials (no longer in office). At a hearing in the case in December, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Kathleen Kennedy said of Adams: “I don’t know why he is not a defendant in this case.” The deputy district attorney assigned to the case told the Los Angeles Times that Adams, unlike the eight who were charged, was not a city official who caused an excessive moneys to be paid to himself or herself; he entered into a contract with the city before being hired.)
“A lot of people should be prosecuted that aren’t being prosecuted, who are not people of color.”
She said the question is being asked:
“Why are you going after certain people in Compton, certain people in Carson, and you’re not going after everybody in Bell, and you’re certainly not looking at Vernon.”
Jackson said he would reject the allegation “wholeheartedly” that the office is “systematically embracing racial components in their public Integrity Division.”
Lacey related that public corruption cases often stem from anonymous tips. She said:
“Can you imagine the ridiculousness if we looked at the tip and said, ‘Wait a minute, this official’s a certain color and we’re already prosecuting three of them, so we’re not going to do that.’ The cases come in as they come in. And I understand the perception that it looks as though the District Attorney’s Office is picking on smaller agencies, but we go where the evidence leads us.”
A point on which Meyers and Lacey differed was whether violations of the Ralph M. Brown Act—which requires, with exceptions, that local agencies conduct meetings in public—should be prosecuted by the District Attorney’s Office.
“I don’t think resources in the D.A.’s Office should be used for what I coin ‘ticky-tack’ violations of the Brown Act….But certainly public corruption would be a focus of my administration.”
Lacey argued that the Brown Act is “very important,”saying:
“You’re entitled to know what’s going on behind closed doors with your government….
“I would continue to enforce that Brown Act because too much money is spent behind closed doors, and you don’t know why, too many deals are cut. And that’s how you keep your government honest.”
All three candidates assured the assemblage of PORAC members that they support collective bargaining for police officers.
Jackson, who is not a member of the ADDA, began his discussion by saying that in light of the audience, he would not discuss collective bargaining by prosecutors and would restrict his remarks to labor activities as they relate to law enforcement officers.
“I think that collective bargaining is an essential tool that peace officers have,” he said, adding that they must retain it.
“I understand why you have to collectively bargain. There’s strength in numbers.”
Meyers not only embraced the right of collective bargaining for police officers but stressed her involvement with the ADDA and her belief in collective bargaining for deputy district attorneys.
“The issue of collective bargaining with respect to the ADDA is important because if you don’t believe in collective bargaining for the troops, the deputy DAs, how possibly can you believe in collective bargaining for police officers?” she asked.
Meyers was the only candidate to allude to political party affiliation, doing so at three points. In her introductory remarks, she mentioned the endorsement of her by “numerous Democratic clubs.” She later made note that voters in Los Angeles County “are highly Democratic.”
In connection with a discussion of collective bargaining, she declared:
“I come from a family of Democrats. I am a Democrat.”
During a discussion of shifting convicted felons from state prisons to county jails, Meyers commented:
“We cannot—even the Republicans agree—that we cannot keep people in state prison forever, unless they’re in state prison for an indeterminate sentence.”
Lacey is also a Democrat. Jackson is the sole Republican in the race. Trutanich switched from Republican to “decline to state” in running for city attorney in 2009.
The office is non-partisan.
Copyright 2012, Metropolitan News Company