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Dumanis Challenged To Release Records In Chula Vista Political Probe

Bonnie Dumanis speaks at a luncheon at Naval Air Station North Island in San ...

Credit: U.S. Navy

Above: Bonnie Dumanis speaks at a luncheon at Naval Air Station North Island in San Diego, March 30, 2005.

District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis' decision to delay releasing the records sought by KPBS was questioned Tuesday by her opponent in the DA's race and one of his supporters.

District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis' office says it needs more time to determine whether to release records of its controversial investigations of Chula Vista politicians.

The District Attorney's Office originally told KPBS in late March that it did not possess records concerning a phone call ex-Chula Vista Mayor Steve Padilla said he got from Dumanis in 2005.

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.

Photo by Guillermo Sevilla

Former San Diego City Councilwoman Donna Frye address the media, May 6, 2014.

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.

On Tuesday, Donna Frye, a former San Diego city councilwoman and open government advocate, called on Dumanis to make the emails public. Frye also is supporting attorney Robert Brewer in his campaign to try to unseat Dumanis this year.

"The public not only deserves but demands that their top legal official and law enforcement officer in the county comply with the basic laws such as the Public Records Act," Frye said. "I think to do anything less is a complete and utter of violation of the public trust."

Frye spoke as a private citizen, not as president of the board of the open government nonprofit advocacy group Californians Aware.

She made her comments at a joint news conference with Brewer, a former federal prosecutor.

Brewer has sought to capitalize on Dumanis’ failure to turn over the records. He called on her to release them during the news conference held across the street from Dumanis' office.

"Now that we know they exist, when are we going to see them?" Brewer said.

Dumanis has directed her staff to "review these documents and release everything appropriate," her campaign spokeswoman, Jen Tierney, said in a statement issued in response to the demands from Brewer and Frye.

"The District Attorney won't be rushed to release these documents before they are properly reviewed because it might win a few votes. That would be the absolute definition of politics over public safety. She'll leave that to Bob Brewer," Tierney said.

Dumanis is seeking her fourth, four-year term as district attorney.

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Amita Sharma
Investigative Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksAs an investigative reporter for KPBS, I've helped expose political scandals and dug into intractable issues like sex trafficking. I've raised tough questions about how government treats foster kids. I've spotlighted the problem of pollution in poor neighborhoods. And I've chronicled corporate mistakes and how the public sometimes ends up paying for them.

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