ADDA Makes Inquiry About Chief of Staff Joseph Iniguez

Below is a letter sent Tuesday by John Rees, executive director of the Association of Deputy District Attorneys to Tim Pescatello, senior manager of the Los Angeles County’s Employee Relations Division. The letter sets forth an inquiry concerning Joseph Iniguez, District Attorney George Gascón’s controversial chief of staff. Iniguez ran for district attorney in 2020, then pulled out of the race, endorsing Gascón. Many have questioned his fitness for his position. Iniguez was arrested on Dec, 11, 2021, by a Pocatello Azusa police officer and booked on suspicion of public intoxication, but the Office of Attorney General, to which the case was referred, dawdled in its investigation and the one-year period within which charges could be filed expired.

This letter serves as a request for you to confirm or deny a disturbing rumor that is gaining  currency in the District Attorney’s Office (Office).

Under normal circumstances, attempts at “rumor control” between this Association and the Office would be quickly and effectively accomplished by a mere phone call, text, or email.  However, the word “normal” cannot be applied to this Administration. For as you know, given the District Attorney’s extreme anti-union animus, it is all but impossible for ADDA to communicate with this Administration at all, let alone quickly or effectively. While the rumor in question may seem both wild and half-baked, we are duty bound to confirm or debunk it  for the benefit of the entire Office.

Accordingly, through other than official channels, we are given to understand that the District Attorney intends to promote—at least on a short-term basis—a completely unqualified political appointee on his Unclassified Staff to the highly responsible permanent Civil Service  management classification of Grade V Deputy District Attorney (DDA). Reportedly, that individual is his unclassified Chief of Staff, one Joseph Iniguez.

To paraphrase Winston Churchill, Mr. Iniguez is a modest little man with much to be modest about. Reportedly, prior to his meteoric rise to the top as Acting Chief Deputy (ACD) in the Unclassified Service, Mr. Iniguez was a Grade II DDA. Reportedly, prior to his assentation to the ACD position, Mr. Iniguez had amassed a less-than-stellar Office record of having prosecuted a mere four felony cases—two of which he supposedly lost. While at some point he became a Grade III DDA, to the best of our knowledge, information, and belief, Mr. Iniguez has never been promoted to the level of Grade IV DDA.

(NOTE: given that Mr. Gascon has admitted that he, himself, has never tried any cases, this could mean that three of the top four Office executives in the largest prosecutorial agency in the nation may have collectively tried a grand total of four cases.)

Why, you may ask, would Mr. Iniguez—who receives a princely compensation package in excess of $406,000 per year—be interested in taking a pay cut occasioned by being placed in a Grade V DDA position? The answer may involve a sinister and a twisted scheme.

To begin with, Mr. Gascon will not be the District Attorney forever. When that occurs, the successor Department Head is highly likely to replace Mr. Iniguez with someone who is considerably more qualified and capable. This means that Mr. Iniguez may have to demote to his last Civil Service rank (e.g., Grade III DDA). However, by placing him on a Grade V DDA position on a short to very short-term basis, Mr. Iniguez may claim that he is entitled to be returned to his highest Civil Service classification (e.g., Grade V DDA). Additionally, by being placed in a Grade V DDA position following Mr. Gascon’s departure, Mr. Iniguez could avoid having to serve as a Grade III DDA under other attorneys that he may have stepped on while serving in the Unclassified Service.

As you know, the position of Grade V DDA is a very important Civil Service management  classification that only the most experienced and most capable Grade IV DDAs attain. Under any circumstances, it is difficult to imagine that Mr. Iniguez has meaningfully added to his otherwise unspectacular prosecutorial record.

If any of the forgoing is correct, then for the County to knowingly permit anyone so manifestly unsuited to be appointed to such a critical managerial position would be a travesty to the merit-based Civil Service system as well as to the very underpinnings of good government.

Tim, it is hoped that what we have heard and what has been related to you is merely an unfounded rumor. As always, if you have any questions in this regard, please contact me at your earliest convenience. That said, your prompt attention to this matter will be greatly appreciated.

Prosecutors Union Seeks Meeting to Discuss Gascón

Rees on Tuesday sent a separate letter to Pescatello saying:

The purpose of the letter is to briefly highlight our ongoing concerns with management of the District Attorney’s Office (Office) and to request to meet with you.

Policy changes and the management practices have resulted in numerous situations that have recently escalated to create working conditions that negatively impact service to the public and threaten the mission of the Office. We look forward to sharing information/data that may sort out the underlying issues and substantiate the hostile working environment by work unit that our members continue to experience.

Accordingly, below you will find a partial summary our ongoing concerns:

1. Since 2020, vacancy rates have increased in all levels of Deputy District Attorneys (DDA) in the Office.

2. Coinciding with staff vacancy rates, caseloads for all levels of classification have increased to unmanageable levels creating a backlog of cases and a resulting inability to meet the statutory prosecution deadlines.

3. Since 2020, retention of talented DDAs has become an issue with more DDAs leaving service by moving to other County positions, to other counties, and generally leaving County service in advance of actual retirement age than previously.

4. Recruitment has not produced enough candidates to fill Grade I DDA vacancies.<

5. Since 2020, the applicant pool for all DDA positions is historically low because of the reputation and policy direction of the current Administration.

6. Working conditions and salaries are no longer comparable to other County positions at the same grade level due to the policy changes that impact both workload and staffing.

7. Punitive transfers and reassignment of the most experienced and more senior DDAs to positions of lesser responsibility and into areas outside of their technical expertise has further created a hostile and toxic environment that is clearly a violation of the County’s Policy of Equity. More senior DDA’s are threatened with reassignment and increased commutes for any shared policy concerns that they may have expressed.

8. This Administration fails to engage in good faith interactive processes to address medical accommodations of more senior employees relying instead on transfers and reassignments to chill any discussions.

At the meeting, we will need to discuss data exchanges, sources of information and agree to an informational exchange process that directly deals with each of the above concerns. In addition, there may be a need to investigate different aspects of each allegation to find the root cause of the hostile work environment given that varying degrees of mismanagement may exist by work unit.

We look forward to scheduling a meeting in the very near future. Thank you in advance for your prompt reply.

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