In $100,000 Sweetheart Deal, Gascón Seeks Supervisors’ OK to Pay Political Ally to Protect Him from Employee Retaliation Lawsuits

It’s no secret that District Attorney George Gascón has stocked his upper management with political cronies and retaliated against career prosecutors who question his workplace policies. It’s also no secret that his anti-labor managerial missteps have cost the County (and its taxpayers) millions of dollars in judgments and settlements.

And now he’s asking the county’s Board of Supervisors to pony up another $100,000 to pay a “central witness” to defend him from these employment-related lawsuits.

Gascón’s “central witness” is no stranger to him or the office; it’s Sharon Woo, his former Chief Deputy. Woo was Gascón’s Number Two when he served as San Francisco’s DA. He brought her down to Los Angeles to fill the same role after his 2020 election. Gascón says he needs to put Woo on the payroll to participate in “background information discussions, witness deposition, and trial preparation” with his lawyers, to “access case information, personnel information, and prior office-related emails and other communications,” and to “defend the Department’s actions in these lawsuits.”

Woo retired at the beginning of the year. The $100,000 payment would come on top of any retirement benefits she is currently receiving.

Gascón’s request raises many questions.

First, why is it necessary to pay a “central witness” $100,000? What is his administration expecting in return?

Second, why does the County need to “re-hire” Woo to do what any other subpoenaed witness would have to do and what she could just as easily do as a non-employee? The California statute authorizing the re-hire — California Government Code section 7522.56 — applies “either during an emergency to prevent stoppage of public business or because the retired person has skills needed to perform work of limited duration.” Why does Gascón need to pay Woo $100,000 to do what one would expect any other witness to do without compensation, i.e., to retrieve and review documents, speak with Gascón’s attorneys, and show up (presumably in response to a subpoena) to testify when asked?

Third, if the $100,000 is truly for document retrieval and not to compensate Woo for her testimony, why can’t the current Chief Deputy, Gascón acolyte and right-hand-guy Joseph F. Iniguez, handle the simple tasks of accessing case information, personnel records, and office-related emails? After all, Iniguez served as Gascón’s interim Chief Deputy before Gascón hired Woo and he has served as Chief Deputy since Woo retired. In between, Iniguez served as Gascón’s Chief of Staff, an executive-level position that gave him broad oversight of and influence over personnel and policy matters. The County is already paying him $300,000-plus a year to do Woo’s old job. At that price, one would hope that Iniguez knows just as much about running the office as she does.

And finally, why is Gascón bringing Woo back as a Grade IV deputy District Attorney, a position that she never held? The move will “use up” a budgeted Grade IV position that could – and should – go to promote a current line prosecutor or bring back a recently retired deputy District Attorney, either of whom could take on core prosecutorial work. This is a serious concern given the growing shortage of prosecutors in the District Attorney’s Office.

We hope that the Board of Supervisors puts these questions to Gascón. And we hope that you do too.

Gascón’s request is Item #78 on today’s Board agenda. Here’s a link to the agenda and instructions on how you can call in.

About the ADDA
The Association of Deputy District Attorneys (ADDA) is the collective bargaining agent representing over 800 Deputy District Attorneys working for the County of Los Angeles

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