$1.5 jury verdict is just the beginning of a dozen retaliation and misconduct lawsuits
By Eric W. Siddall
It’s not unusual for a public agency to settle or lose a lawsuit. It’s also not uncommon for a public agency to use taxpayer dollars to cover those costs. But it’s almost unheard of for a public agency to shell out millions in taxpayer funds to pay for the incompetence of a single public official who continues to commit the same personal acts of misconduct over and over again.
That is what is happening here in Los Angeles County with District Attorney George Gascón, and it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone.
While he was San Francisco’s District Attorney, Gascón retaliated against an investigator who questioned his decision to carry a gun on commercial flights. The controversy began when investigators reported that Gascón continuously violated federal law by bringing a personal firearm on commercial flights and that he committed perjury when he falsely claimed in signed documents that he was an active police officer. These allegations also appeared in a lawsuit filed in federal court. According to news reports, Gascón went ballistic after learning of the TSA complaint, yelling at investigators at a training day that a “cancer” was growing in the San Francisco District Attorney’s Investigator Bureau and that he intended to “cut it out.” San Francisco’s city attorney settled that case for $400,000.
Gascón also drove his SUV into a protestor during a 2018 demonstration outside of his former Bay Area home. San Francisco County settled that lawsuit for $46,000.
Since he took office in December 2020, Gascón’s incompetence and vindictiveness have cost Los Angeles County taxpayers at least $2.5 million in judgments.
In 2021, the County paid out an $800,000 cash settlement plus an estimated $300,000 in severance pay to a veteran prosecutor, Richard Doyle, who questioned Gascón’s order to dismiss a train derailment case. Gascón refused to give Doyle a reason for the dismissal—which is required by law—and then promptly removed Doyle from his position. Media reports later revealed that the attorney representing the defendant was a major Gascón political supporter. The defendant also boasted in recorded jail calls that his attorney had direct contact with Gascón.
This week, a jury awarded Deputy District Attorney Shawn Randolph $1.5 million after Gascón retaliated against her for questioning the legality of his policies. This case actually went to trial. Gascón testified. The jury listened. They clearly did not believe him or the political loyalist who testified on his behalf.
Gascon’s misconduct has already cost Angelenos $2.5 million in taxpayer-funded payouts. That’s about $100,000 per month. And with sixteen similar lawsuits pending, the final bill will likely be even higher.
But it’s not just about the money. Gascón’s attempt to silence dissent by retaliating against those questioning him is troubling. It is also consistent with his statements. When discussing that deputy district attorneys, like most public servants in Los Angeles County, enjoy civil service protection, Gascón stated: “Some people will be unhappy and like they’ll either become internal terrorists or they’ll leave. And I know certainly how to deal with both.”
Is dissent a cancer – or a form of terrorism? Gascón’s authoritarian-tinged sentiment is incompatible with the highest ideals of being a prosecutor: to do justice. His retaliatory actions suggest to all who work in the District Attorney’s office that their jobs are at risk if they witness and report any of his wrongdoing. In short, his actions and words are a stark reminder of why civil service protection exists in the first place.
Eric Siddall is Vice President of the Association of Los Angeles Deputy District Attorneys, the collective bargaining agent representing nearly 1,000 Deputy District Attorneys who work for the County of Los Angeles.