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Prosecutor Confirms Records Sought By KPBS Exist In DA’s Office

Photo by Katie Schoolov

District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis speaks to the media, Aug. 20, 2013.

Aired 5/5/14 on KPBS News.

The office said it will decide by Monday whether to release records.

Records concerning a prosecution of Chula Vista officials are at the San Diego County District Attorney's Office after all.

A month ago, officials in the office of District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis said the records requested by KPBS did not exist.

KPBS asked the DA's Office in early March for records, including emails, about a call former Chula Vista Mayor Steve Padilla said he received from Dumanis in late 2005. Padilla said Dumanis asked him to appoint her aide to a vacant council seat.

A recent KPBS story noted that within weeks of Padilla's refusal, Dumanis began investigating the entire Chula Vista City Council without revealing her call to Padilla. In late March, the DA's Office told KPBS it did not possess records related to the request.

KPBS sent another Public Records Act request two weeks ago seeking the same records from Deputy District Attorney Patrick O'Toole. He oversaw the Chula Vista investigations. Within hours, O'Toole wrote that he had the records and sent them up the chain of command for consideration.

The DA's Office also told KPBS in March that records pertaining to the investigation are legally exempt from disclosure.

"To the extent your request is for 'records pertaining to or discussing the Padilla or Castaneda investigation, or any investigation pertaining to this,' these records are exempt from disclosure under the 'investigative files' exemption," wrote Deputy District Attorney Julie Reizen in a letter to KPBS.

Reizen also cited the "deliberative process" privilege.

But Peter Scheer, executive director of the California First Amendment Coalition, said neither of those exemptions apply to records such as emails discussing the call to Padilla, or how it might have affected subsequent investigations.

"The communications, the email communications that raised questions or doubts, were not part of the investigative file for the prosecution," Scheer said. "The deliberative process privilege is a much abused, very broad privilege. They have to justify a determination that the public interest in keeping it secret outweighs the public interest in making it public. There's no reason to keep it secret except to avoid embarrassment."

Scheer added that even if the records were legally exempt from disclosure, Dumanis could choose to release them.

The DA's Office said it will decide Monday whether to release the emails.

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Avatar for user 'NancyChase'

NancyChase | May 5, 2014 at 8:13 a.m. ― 2 years, 9 months ago

No more secrets in DA's office:(!

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Avatar for user 'ohmySD'

ohmySD | May 5, 2014 at 8:32 a.m. ― 2 years, 9 months ago

Dumanis needs to release the records. Her job is to be the ultimate enforcer of the law. Why are not more San Diegans up in arms about this?

This is our city and we have become complacent to allow political leaders to have disregard for ethics, and those charged with enforcing the law from following it.

It's time for a change now!

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Avatar for user 'ChloeM'

ChloeM | May 5, 2014 at 9 a.m. ― 2 years, 9 months ago

This is yet another example of a lack of transparency in the current DA's office. The sitting District Attorney needs to be held accountable - Dumanis should release the records.

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Avatar for user 'deenie'

deenie | May 5, 2014 at 10:17 a.m. ― 2 years, 9 months ago

If she has nothing to hide, the decision will be easy, go for complete transparency. Affirm or deny the conversation with Padilla and release the requested records. However, if she has something to hide, she will have every interest in obstructing this investigation. Vindictive Prosecution law suits can reap enormous damage awards against both Dumanis and the County of San Diego, to say nothing about the massive negative publicity it would engender during this election cycle.

Wonder what her choice will be ?

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Avatar for user 'KESD'

KESD | May 5, 2014 at 11:27 a.m. ― 2 years, 9 months ago

Dumanis MUST release these records. As the highest officeholder of the legal department in this jurisdiction her actions must be made available for public scrutiny. Considering the power she wields, her indifference to transparency is terrifying. There is no reasonable explanation for her to withhold this information, and to do so exhibits a complete and utter disregard for the citizens she serves. It's a no-brainer, Ms. Dumanis, give up the records.

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | May 5, 2014 at 11:57 a.m. ― 2 years, 9 months ago

DO NOT re-elect her.

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Avatar for user 'christo'

christo | May 5, 2014 at 12:07 p.m. ― 2 years, 9 months ago

DO NOT re-elect her seconded! Dumanis called Padilla looking to get her boy Jesse Navarro a cushy job on the CV City Council. When Padilla rightly declined to accommodate her, Bonnie then began to "investigate" Steve Castaneda for "thinking about buying a condo." Had Steve Castaneda been found guilty, he would have been forced off the Chula Vista Council, & I bet Bonnier would be right back on the phone to ask that her goon Navarro be appointed, PLEASE SAN DIEGO: OPEN YOUR EYES, for God's Sake! This is NOT JUSTICE!!! Vote NOT DUMANIS!

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Avatar for user 'jkiern69'

jkiern69 | May 5, 2014 at 12:49 p.m. ― 2 years, 9 months ago

Good reporting KPBS! We now know the records KPBS wants do exist and are not exempt from disclosure, as Mr. Sheer explains. (also at pp. 7, 10). Dumanis’ continued refusal to release them only makes sense if she has abused her powers and breached the public’s trust by undertaking a retaliatory investigation. If she’s done nothing wrong, she should release the records. If she continues to hide the public’s right to know, maybe the State Attorney General, Dumanis’ boss, needs to get involved. ( GC § 12550)

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Avatar for user 'MerryMaid'

MerryMaid | May 5, 2014 at 1:07 p.m. ― 2 years, 9 months ago

Continuing cleaning the City/County house. Ethics and integrity are vital for our community to trust government's not re-elect Bonnie Dumanis.

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Avatar for user 'Marty_Martins'

Marty_Martins | May 5, 2014 at 2:54 p.m. ― 2 years, 9 months ago

Even more dissembling if not outrights lies by Bonnie Dumanis. She says the records don’t exist and it’s learned she had them all along. Maybe she just forgot…the same way she forgot who else was present or what was discussed when the went to the Mexican money bundler’s mansion and yet her mayoral campaign benefited from $200,000 spent on her behalf.

So much for transparency in the Dumanis administration. What other secrets are yet to be revealed. If Amita Sharma doesn’t get some kind of award for investigative journalism for all the dirt, lies, and corruption she has unearthed, something is seriously the matter.

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Avatar for user 'Prosecutor'

Prosecutor | May 5, 2014 at 3:33 p.m. ― 2 years, 9 months ago

These are typical slimy politician tactics. Deny and delay, until after the primary election. This whole deal just reeks of political scandal. Now Dumanis just adds to it in trying to keep the facts from coming out. Apparently she didn't learn the lesson given in the Watergate scandal, where the cover-up was more damaging than the act. She has pulled the same act where requests have been made for her to reveal how she has spent asset-forfeiture grants, which many believe she is using for her own political slush fund. Deny and delay.

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Avatar for user 'RCPhill808'

RCPhill808 | May 5, 2014 at 6:16 p.m. ― 2 years, 9 months ago

From a retired prosecutor who worked with, and for, Bonnie Dumanis for most of his career: This whole affair is indicative of the vindictiveness and dishonesty displayed so often by the real Bonnie Dumanis; not the one the public would like to believe she is. Having worked for her, I can attest to the fact that this is how she treats her own employees, or a least those who cross her. She is so used to getting her way that she thinks she can do what she wants, to whomever she wants, any time she wants, and the public welfare be damned. It's time to tell her that the County of San Diego expects more from the one, as the chief law enforcement official in the county, who is supposed to represent truth, justice, and unerring ethics. Vote June 3: Bob Brewer for DA.

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Avatar for user 'MaraAllard'

MaraAllard | May 5, 2014 at 9:35 p.m. ― 2 years, 9 months ago

This news really makes the job tougher on the line Deputy District Attorneys out their daily trying to get the job done right. Now they have to be the ones to answer for this as suspicion is cast on the whole office when this kind of thing happens. The effect on prosecutors is long-term and will be statewide as another political case develops in this state begging the courts to further erode prosecutorial immunity to the point it doesn't exist anymore.

Prosecutors brand new and veteran all have the same obligation to disclose exculpatory information on their cases no matter what. An unethical boss is no excuse nor will it be in court. As a former San Diego Deputy DA, I salute the work the Deputy DAs do on a daily basis. Its often thankless and the prosecutor is always the one held to the highest standard in the courtroom and carries the burden in more ways than one. That burden did not need to get heavier.

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Avatar for user 'MaraAllard'

MaraAllard | May 5, 2014 at 10:08 p.m. ― 2 years, 9 months ago

typo correction: "their" is "there"

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Avatar for user 'lifesaver1'

lifesaver1 | May 6, 2014 at 7:49 a.m. ― 2 years, 9 months ago

This is an issue that should be investigated by the Attorney General or the US Attorney. The implication of this story is that a DA can shield themselves from political corruption. Were that true it would be enormously corrosive to our system of democracy. There are a variety of examples around the US where the US Attorney has addressed cases of this ilk.

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Avatar for user 'pwyguy'

pwyguy | May 6, 2014 at 7:51 a.m. ― 2 years, 9 months ago

Sorry Ms. Dumanis, this behavior has cost you my vote.

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | May 6, 2014 at 11:54 a.m. ― 2 years, 9 months ago

I just hope my former Chula Vista student who interned or worked for her office in Chula Vista a few years ago, 2008 or 2009, wasn't tainted or infected by all the poison that has come from her Office.

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