Friday, May 26, 2017

Contra Costa [County] prosecutors have ‘no confidence’ in District Attorney Mark Peterson

MARTINEZ — Contra Costa County prosecutors declared Monday they have “no confidence” in District Attorney Mark Peterson, less than two weeks after a county civil grand jury said he should be removed from office for “willful or corrupt misconduct in office” related to spending more than $66,000 in campaign funds on personal items.
Ballots were cast at several locations over the Monday lunch hour and counted at 5 p.m. Aron DeFerrari, president of the 88-member Contra Costa District Attorneys Association, would not provide vote totals but said turnout among the membership Monday was “extremely high.”
The “no confidence” vote, which DeFerrari said is unprecedented in the history of the Contra Costa District Attorney’s Office, reflects widespread discontent among deputy prosecutors about their boss, who in January was fined $45,000 by the state Fair Political Practices Commission for nine violations of the state’s Political Reform Act. That 1974 legislation regulates campaign financing, conflicts of interest, lobbying and governmental ethics.
Monday’s vote was no surprise, given that the Contra Costa District Attorneys Association’s seven-member board had shortly after the grand jury’s report urged its rank-and-file to cast such a vote.
Monday’s action was the latest in a series of setbacks for Peterson since he acknowledged in December that, as chairman of his own campaign’s finances, he spent more than $66,000 in campaign funds on movie tickets, meals, clothes, hotel rooms and other personal items over a five-year period ending in 2015. Peterson never reported making any loans to himself or his campaign. In addition to the state fine and the grand jury finding, Paul Graves — a prosecutor working for Peterson — said he would run in 2018 to succeed his boss. Santa Clara County prosecutor Patrick Vanier has also announced his intention to run against Peterson.
Peterson, reached Monday evening, wouldn’t say whether Monday’s vote would alter his re-election plans.
“Regardless of the recent vote, I’m very proud of the work that I and the deputy district attorneys in our office have done in reducing violent crime, fighting domestic violence, and preventing future crimes in our region,” he said. “We will continue to work hard to serve the citizens of Contra Costa County.”
In a written statement in December, he said he considered the $66,000 to be a loan and intended to fully repay it to his campaign account. But FPPC records show he only stopped spending campaign cash on personal expenses after he found out he was being audited in 2015.
DeFerrari said Peterson’s announcement in March that he intended to seek re-election despite admitting to illegal actions, and the subsequent grand jury report, were the two key events that turned most deputy prosecutors against Peterson.
“That was pretty shocking,” DeFerrari said Monday of Peterson’s intent to run even after acknowledging using his campaign’s money. “This vote is for the defendants who wonder why one standard applies to the district attorney and another standard applies to them.”
Added fellow prosecutor and association Vice President Colleen Gleason, “The erosion of public trust is starting to affect our ability to pursue justice. We could no longer be silent.”
May 23, 2017
East Bay Times
By Sam Richards

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