Grievance, Directed to County Civil Service Commission, Alleges District Attorney Passed Over DDAs On Eligibility Lists for Promotion to Give Jobs to Political Supporters Bereft of Prosecutorial Skills
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The Association of Deputy District Attorneys announced Sunday that it is contesting in administrative proceedings the hiring by District Attorney George Gascón of three deputy public defenders as prosecutors, saying they were chosen based on political allegiance to Gascón and not based on qualifications.
Deputy district attorneys (“DDAs”) who are on DDA eligibility lists, established May 13, were passed over for promotions in favor of deputy public defenders (deputy “PDs”) who had taken no competitive examination, the Association of Deputy District Attorneys (“ADDA”) protests in appeals to the county’s Civil Service Commission, filed Friday.
In particular, Deputy District Attorney Eric Siddall, who is vice president of the ADDA, appealed “on behalf of himself and other similarly situated Grade III DDAs…the failure of District Attorney George Gascon to promote him to a Grade IV position by instead promoting [Deputy Public Defenders] Tiffiny Blacknell and Shelan Joseph to Grade IV positions” in alleged violation of Civil Service rules. Likewise, Deputy District Attorney Maria Ghobadi appealed “on behalf of herself and other similarly situated Grade II DDAs” in connection with the appointment of Deputy Public Defender Alisa Blair as a Grade III DDA.
The two appeal letters are signed by Elizabeth J. Gibbons of The Gibbons Firm and Richard A. Shinee of Green & Shinee. They ask for a hearing.
Email to Members
ADDA members on Sunday received an email advising of the appeals. It says:
“The appeals, and request for a hearing, are based on the District Attorney’s violation of Civil Service Rule 25 by hiring these particular deputy public defenders based on their political affiliation with and campaign support of Mr. Gascon, rather than on merit, as is required under the Civil Service rules and the County Charter. In addition to violating Rule 25, Mr. Gascon violated Civil Service rules regulating competitive examinations for promotions as well as inter-departmental transfers and changes of employee classification.”
Civil Service Rule 25.01(A) provides (with bold face added in the appeal letters):
“No person in the classified service or seeking admission thereto shall be appointed, reduced or removed, or in any way favored or discriminated against in employment or opportunity for employment because of race, color, religion, sex, physical handicap, medical condition, marital status, age, national origin or citizenship, ancestry, political opinions or affiliations, organizational membership or affiliation, or other non-merit factors, any of which are not substantially related to successful performance of the duties of the position. ‘Nonmerit factors’’ are those factors that relate exclusively to a personal or social characteristic or trait and are not substantially related to successful performance of the duties of the position. Any person who appeals alleging discrimination based on a non-merit factor must name the specific non-merit factor(s) on which discrimination is alleged to be based. No hearing shall be granted nor evidence heard relative to discrimination based on unspecified non-merit factors.”
Siddall’s Appeal Letter
The appeal letter on behalf of Siddall comments:
“District Attorney Gascon has clearly and blatantly violated the fundamental rules of the merit system by appointing Tiffiny Blacknell and Shelan Joseph to Grade IV positions for which they are not qualified, for which they have displayed no skill or ability to perform, and for which there are now and were at the time of Tiffiny Blacknell’s and Shelan Joseph’s appointments, approximately 288 extremely qualified candidates, including Petitioner herein and all the others waiting on the eligibility list. The conduct of District Attorney Gascon has intentionally and publicly disparaged all 288 Deputy District Attorney IIIs, including Petitioner herein, by promoting Tiffiny Blackwell and Shelan Joseph instead of each of them.”
“The appointments of Tiffiny Blacknell and Shelan Joseph were driven only by political patronage and payback by the elected district attorney to reward unqualified political supporters and campaign donors, who were willing to provide public support in Mr. Gascón’s recent failed litigation over his unlawful Special Directives. The County Charter’s demand for a merit system of employment does not allow the pay-to-play politics exhibited by District Attorney Gascon in his refusal to promote Petitioner to either of the Grade IV positions given to Tiffiny Blacknell and Shelan Joseph as rewards for their political support.”
Above are, from left, Tiffiny Blacknell, George Gascon, and Alicia Blair.
The litigation alluded to is the challenge by the ADDA—a hybrid union and professional association—to the legality of certain “special directives” Gascón issued on Dec. 7, the day he was sworn in as district attorney. On Feb. 8, the ADDA obtained a preliminary injunction barring enforcement of key provisions in the challenged directives.
Joseph, the appeal notes, executed a declaration in support of a Gascón position that was attached to the opposition.
The appeal letter on behalf of Ghobadi recites that she and approximately 176 other Grade II DDAs were passed over in favor of Blair.
Blacknell has attracted controversy while still in the Public Defender’s Office by setting up an online form for deputy PDs and criminal defense lawyers to report DDAs who did not comply with the directives and judges who turned down motions to vacate sentence enhancements alleged while Gascón’s predecessor, Jackie Lacey, was in office. She then received a “sweetheart” sentencing deal for a client while her hiring by the District Attorney’s Office was in the works, worked out with Mario Trujillo, who was the No. Three person in Gascón’s administration.
Blacknell and Blair have both taken anti-police stances.
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