By Doug Porter
Our current county district attorney is making the news frequently as of late, in a not good way.
Yesterday’s UT-San Diego has a story about high profile events attended by Bonnie Dumanis that seemingly weren’t disclosed in financial reports as required by law.
District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis is the subject of two state ethics complaints alleging she failed to report meals and travel she accepted from interest groups — complaints filed by a supporter of a political challenger on the June 3 ballot.
The allegations raise a particular issue for Dumanis, who has led a high-profile prosecution in the past three years of more than a dozen officials in South County for accepting meals and other considerations and not reporting them on state forms.
What we’re looking at here are fifty or so free meals with a total value of $4583, according to the story. The on-line version of the UT also has a handy-dandy photo gallery of Dumanis at some of these events, including:
- February, 2012 ($100)- The Neighborhood Market Association
- May, 2012 ($125)- Lawyer’s Club of San Diego 40th Anniversary
- September, 2012 (Registration + Dinner) Chamber of Commerce DC Lobbying Trip
- January, 2013 ($50) – San Diego Association of Realtors
- February, 2013 ($200) Downtown San Diego Partnership Event
- March, 2013 ($200) National Conflict Resolution Center
- October, 2013 ($135) San Diego La Raza Lawyers Association
The UT says they provided the DA’s office with a list of the events in question, “but the office declined to say whether the DA attended for free and what her policies are on accepting and reporting such gifts.”
The conclusion of the UT story:
Allegations of failing to report gifts and meals are complicated for Dumanis, who prosecuted South County school officials for accepting gifts and meals in exchange for construction contracts.
Although many of the officials were initially charged with bribery, their final plea deals have seen them admit to lesser offenses — often, failing to report meals on state forms.
Donna Frye Joins the Fray
Ex-city councilwoman Donna Fry appeared at a downtown press conference yesterday with Dumanis challenger Bob Brewer to call for release of recently discovered documents relating to a (mostly) failed investigation of Chula Vista politicians.
After telling KPBS back in February that records pertaining to a phone call ex-Chula Vista Mayor Steve Padilla said he got from Dumanis did not exist, the DA’s office is now obviously stalling for time before releasing the documents.
But when KPBS sent a Public Records Act request to Patrick O’Toole – the prosecutor who handled the Chula Vista investigations – he gathered the records in just hours and gave them to officials in the District Attorney’s Office.
Dumanis’ office said it never asked O’Toole if he had the documents because typically that information is kept in a case file that has long since been closed.
But the information sought by KPBS was not about case pleadings and motions. It was related to Padilla’s assertion that Dumanis had asked him to appoint her aide to a vacant City Council seat in that 2005 call. Within weeks of Padilla’s refusal, Dumanis initiated an investigation of the entire Chula Vista council.
On Monday, the District Attorney’s Office told KPBS that it needed more time because the request was not restricted to records O’Toole handed over. KPBS promptly amended its request to ask for only what O’Toole has delivered. The office still has not released the records.
The Tip of the Iceberg
The real deal with Dumanis isn’t really about these allegations. They’re minor and she’ll probably skate free from any consequences. But they are indicative of a much larger problem, I’m told.
Politics, not the law, is what rules the roost in the County District Attorneys office these days. The rank and file of local law enforcement agencies have come out solidly against the incumbent. The rank and file of the downtown set have come out in favor of Bonnie Dumanis. That’s likely because she’s been the gatekeeper of their dirty dealings for the past decade plus.
For example, here’s a comment posted here recently by ex-prosecutor Dave Stutz:
Within 3 hours of making a call to Sycuan to ask about a $25,000 contribution to “Kolender for Sheriff”‘, which would be illegal, I was called into her office and told to stop the investigation. No one knew about my call expect Sycuan and myself. Either Kolender or Sycuan called her and she stopped an investigation without knowing what is was about nor did she ask. For the next year Dumanis was led by a leash by Kolender endorsing right wing candidates on a “law and Order” ticket. She has been in their bag since day one.
This was an excerpt from Doug Porter’s The Starting Line column at San Diego Free Press.