Civil Service questions Pfingst's final actions
By J. Harry Jones
UNION-TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER
July 17, 2003
About 20 deputy district attorneys may have lost out on promotions for political reasons, the Civil Service Commission said yesterday. The unprecedented finding could jeopardize the positions of attorneys who were promoted in the final days of former District Attorney Paul Pfingst's administration.
The commissioners said there is probable cause to believe that the prosecutors who supported Pfingst's opponent, Bonnie Dumanis, in last year's hotly contested district attorney's race were denied advancement "because of their political affiliation."
By a unanimous vote, the commissioners agreed to hold a full investigative hearing on Aug. 13. If political discrimination is established, the promotions awarded in November and December could be annulled and a new process ordered.
No one is quite sure what powers the commission has in this area because it is uncharted territory.
"This has never happened in the institutional memory of the county," said Dennis Floyd, senior deputy county counsel.
Dumanis, who defeated Pfingst by about 3,500 votes out of nearly 600,000 cast in November, issued a statement yesterday evening:
"The district attorney represents all the employees, the ones who got the promotions as well as the ones who are contesting the promotions. It's been our position, and will continue to be our position, to remain neutral."
Pfingst, who is now in private practice, did not return phone calls last night.
The complaints about the promotions were filed more than six months ago and have been under investigation by the county's Office of Internal Affairs.
In almost all the cases, investigators concluded the applicants were denied promotions because they supported Dumanis.
"Mr. Pfingst was unable to provide sufficient evidence to demonstrate that he didn't consider political affiliation when making his promotional choices," investigators stated in several of the reports reviewed yesterday.
"The majority of the promotions were based on the applicants' political affiliations," according to one report.
Investigators said only about one-third of the prosecutors supported Pfingst, yet they comprised the majority of deputies selected for promotions.
Of the 16 deputies promoted to Level 4, the second-highest rank for prosecutors, nine financially supported Pfingst's re-election to a third term. Only two were Dumanis supporters and the other five did not openly support either candidate, according to some of the reports.
Six other prosecutors were promoted to Level 5. The commission ruled that those promotions, too, should be reviewed, and that Deputy District Attorney Rick Clabby was discriminated against when he didn't get promoted because he was an outspoken critic of Pfingst.
Pfingst told investigators he promoted the most qualified individuals, but that was questioned in the reports.
"(Investigators) have not been able to confirm or deny whether Mr. Pfingst's assertions are true. This is due to the fact there is absolutely nothing in writing to verify his contention."
In a letter written to the investigators on July 2, Pfingst said each of the deputies that was promoted "had a documented history of excellence" and said those that were passed over didn't possess the same skills.
"The complainants simply are not more accomplished lawyers," he said.
Many of the prosecutors who filed the complaints attended yesterday's commission hearing and were visibly happy with the outcome. Most, however, chose not to comment afterward.
"Of course we're pleased," said Karl Eppel.
"I trust the process," said Phyllis Shess.
Commissioners said both those who were denied promotions and those who got them are encouraged to attend the hearing next month.
Last year's election was one of the most bitter in county history. Pfingst was called unethical and anti-Semitic by his detractors and was accused of favoring those loyal to his administration.
Pfingst attacked Dumanis' qualifications, saying she lacked experience prosecuting major crimes. And during the race, her mental fitness was questioned.
Members of the union that represents prosecutors voted by a two-thirds majority to express no confidence in Pfingst's leadership in November 2001. After that vote, the office became split into two camps.
Dumanis is prevented from promoting anyone while the commission investigation is being conducted. She has, however, reassigned several people to different jobs, but not different pay scales.
Many deputies who supported Pfingst and were in positions of some power have been reassigned to far less prestigious positions, while many of her biggest supporters were made managers and given high-profile jobs.
Dumanis has said political affiliation did not play a role in her decisions.
Pfinst is silent now? That's new and different.
posted on 07/17/2003 10:37:37 AM PDT
(But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. Mat. 5:44)
Makes one wonder, besides Westerfield, how many other people were improperly incarcerated?
Paging Bill O'Reilly
posted on 07/17/2003 11:30:47 AM PDT
IRONY: Pfingst being put in jail, in a cell with DW.
What this information really shows, is that Pfingst is not above using his position for political gain.
He needed to win that election, and he used ALL MEANS NECESSARY to try to assure the victory.
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