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Los Angeles, March 2022: Tents of homeless people outside City Hall. (Photo: Elliott Cowand Jr., Shutterstock)

A Good Government Union?

Los Angeles’ Association of Deputy District Attorneys shows that’s possible

By Thomas Buckley, December 26, 2022 10:11 am

The terms “government employee union” and “civil service protection” tend not to inspire confidence amongst the general public, especially those who have been to the DMV, had to deal with the EDD, or have a child in public school in California.

The image most government union’s project is that of a bloated righteous shrill lazy massive bag of money that got that way because it is able – by using that bag of money – to hire its own bosses.

The idea of civil service protection is nearly as unnerving as that tends to conjure visions of angry lumps in cubicles whose only skill seems to be being able to hit the “hold” button on the phone.

While those may be admittedly overbroad generalizations, one union – the Association of Deputy District Attorneys of Los Angeles (ADDA) – truly does not fit either stereotype as it’s battle with it’s boss, Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascon, enters its third year.

The ADDA appears to be doing what government unions and civil service  protections were actually created to do – defend employees from politically-based abuse and safeguard the governmental systems for the entire community without fear of being fired for simply speaking the truth.

For a bit of background, civil service reform/protections got their start, at least at the federal level, in 1883 when President Chester A. Arthur (you remember him…well, maybe only if you went to a Chester A. Arthur elementary school) signed the Pendleton Act.  Essentially, this created a more merit-based system of appointments, hirings, firings, and promotions system.

Prior to this, the “spoils system” existed, letting elected officials pretty much hire and fire at will, allowing idiot brothers-in-law to be put in charge of things like naval procurement or political supporters being tapped as, well, pretty much anything.

Currently, for example, the President of the United States, can appoint about 4,000 or so people directly and/or with Senate confirmation and the spoils system still remains active in this particular sliver of government workers. Big donors get ambassadorships – should have had your parents add a zero to that lobbyist check and make it a campaign donation instead, Eric – and politically well-connected folks can get minor Cabinet posts – Penny Pritzker, connected and a big donor, was tapped by President Obama as Commerce Secretary because anyone can sit in meetings and fly on planes.  And some are chosen because of their theoretical political potential; take Kamala Harris, for example – technically elected but really Biden’s first personnel decision.  Of course, that is a decision His Decrepitude came to regret rather early on, but you get the idea of political ideology trumping competence.

These civil service protections wound their way through governments at every level as part of the national “progressive” (back when progressive meant progress and not totalitarian Luddism) movement.

Clearly, the backscratching and nepotism continues to this day, but in many cases it has become indirect favoritism. For example, an elected used to find a job for their idiot brother-in-law deep in the bowels of the bureaucracy; now they just give a contract to the “non-profit” or NGO (non-governmental organization) they “just happen” to work for, see Sheila Kuehl – and the entire homeless-industrial complex.

As to government unions, due to the obvious concern “that you could not compel the sovereign power to bargain collectively—because whoever can compel the sovereign must perforce become the sovereign power” (see here for a deeper dive)  they only started to become legal in the late 1950s. President Kennedy signed a bill in 1962 to allow them at the federal level, then-Governor Reagan opened the door in 1968 in California and then, in 1975, Governor Jerry Brown vaporized the door and the unions – specifically the teachers groups –  began their inexorable, dues-fueled march to the powerful perch they have today in state and local government.

For example, the United Teachers of Los Angeles spends millions each election cycle picking the school board (5 of the 7 current members are UTLA-backed, as was the now-infamous Nury Martinez) they then negotiate with and devotes time and energy to very non-school related issues such as transnational labor organizing – seriously – see here and note the cheery “Good afternoon, comrades!” the UTLA speaker starts off with.

That type of activity stands in sharp contrast to the LA ADDA, which focuses exclusively on typical union issues – pay, benefits, working conditions, etc. – and, since Gascon took office, trying to preserve the justice system.

Gascon’s journey to becoming Los Angeles County District Attorney was rather circuitous and surprising. He was in the LAPD, during which time he became an attorney and eventually rose to assistant police chief under Bill Bratton. He left the LAPD to become Chief of Police in Mesa, AZ where he engaged in a rather open battle with then-Sheriff Joe Arpaio, known nationally for his tough on crime and illegal immigration policies.

Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascon. (Photo: da.lacounty.gov)

He left Mesa under interesting circumstances and was then appointed by now governor, then San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, to be the city’s chief of police. He served as chief until Newsom appointed him District Attorney in 2011, despite Gascon’s, shall we say, extremely limited actual courtroom experience.

Gascon served in that position until 2019, resigning the position essentially to be able to run for DA in Los Angeles (a run financially supported by numerous “progressive” groups and donors such as George Soros, a man apparantelly on a mission to deismantle the entire American criminal justice system.)

Exactly how that decision came about is subject to much debate and speculation, but it is entirely plausible that Gascon was “headhunted” by the Los Angeles “progressive” establishment.  This also allowed Chesa Boudin to snag the San Francisco DA spot – a woke two-fer, if you will.

Boudin has since been removed from office by San Francisco’s voters and the current recall effort against Gascon is winding its way through court challenges now.

While understandably leery, the ADDA (which had donated money to Jackie Lacey’s unsuccessful campaign to keep Gascon from taking her job) reserved judgement about Gascon…at first.

“We tried to work with him, to meet with him, but he ignored us,” said ADDA vice-president Eric Siddall, a deputy district attorney with 15 years’ experience in the office.

Instead of getting to know the office and the team, one of Gascon’s first acts was to issue a series of policy directives in line with his political agenda – no death penalty, no sentencing enhancements, limited use of cash bail, youthful offender protections, re-investigating previous convictions, etc.

Many of these directives were in direct contradiction of state law and were challenged in court by the ADDA.  The ADDA won.

“He breaks the law because he doesn’t know what the law is,” said Marc Debbaudt, who retired from the DA’s office after 31 years and served as the previous ADDA president.

Gascon’s orders, said Debbaudt, placed the deputy district attorneys in an impossible situation as following the directives meant breaking the law and violating their oath of office and their professional standards.

The ADDA chose to follow the law, protect the justice system, ensure criminals were put away, and that victims were respected. As to Gascon’s view of crime victims, that can be summed up by both his ending the practice of notifying victims of the parole hearings of their assailants –  – and the fact that victims’ families are furious with him.

While Gascon could, in theory, fire deputy district attorneys that displease him, he has instead chosen to take a different tack by re-assigning them to lesser positions in the office instead.  Again, in theory he can fire but he has to have a reason beyond “you won’t break the law when I tell you to” or face the wrath of the civil service system and then having to pay out massive sums in wrongful termination lawsuit losses.

Both Siddall and Debbaudt said the ADDA understands that being District Attorney is an elected, political position and that DAs have the right to their own specific ideologies. There are limits to that, though, limits that Gascon does not seem to understand.

“He gets to set the policies, but those policies have to be legal,” Siddall said.

The ADDA believes that Gascon has made the office purely political and has intentionally undermined its core mission of properly prosecuting criminals.

A pair of notable cases point in this direction. Earlier this fall, Gascon proudly announced a case against the election data firm Konnech and charged it’s CEO, Eugene Yu, with two felonies for illegally transferring election worker personal data to China. A month later, the charges were dropped, with Gascon citing “potential bias” in the development of the case as a reason – see here.

It is, however, quite possible Gascon dropped the case for political reasons as the charges could be seen to bolster the arguments of so-called “election deniers,” (or people appropriately concerned about election security – you choose your term) something his extremely woke office would be loathe to do. 

In another instance, longtime DDA Richard Doyle refused to drop charges against a trio of politically-connected anti-police protestors who attempted to wreck a train by barricading the tracks in Compton.

The charges were dropped by a different DDA whom Gascon had brought in with him and Doyle was demoted.  He sued and Gascon’s office was forced to pay Doyle an $800,000 settlement.

“Gascon has no problem with interfering in cases involving his political supporters,” Siddall said.  “That should never happen and it did not happen under Lacey and (former DA Steve) Cooley.”

Another Gascon-caused issue involves personnel decisions, which are specific and appropriate concerns to the union. Both Debbaudt and Siddall stated that a number of unqualified – but ideologically identical to Gascon – new deputies have been brought in, typically from the public defender’s office. Some have even been given supervisorial positions and/or paid at a higher grade than they are entitled to by past service practice.

For example, Gascon has loudly stated it is a priority of his to weed out “bad” police officers, so he has placed new personnel in the office’s Justice System Integrity Division.  These attorneys are – again – mostly former public defenders fiercely loyal to Gascon’s vision.

The problem? They are not at all good at their job and seem to bring cases against officers for political and public relations reasons.  Siddall noted that the office has had cases tossed out by judges at preliminary hearings, where probable cause, amongst other items, are determined.  This is akin to not being able to get grand jury to indict a ham sandwich, as the old saying goes.

“This was a premier division with some of the most experienced deputy DAs,” said Siddall.  “Now they’re bringing cases that don’t even make it past a prelim.”

This incompetence brings into play an even more sinister possibility: the division is so incompetent that even if they stumble across an actually bad cop (yes, they definitely exist) that they will botch the case so badly they will go free when they rightfully should be behind bars.

Since Gascon took office, the number of deputy district attorneys has shrunk from just over 1,000 to now just barely 800, causing individual case loads to skyrocket. Those deputies are also assigned differently now, with numerous off on Gascon pet projects such as reviewing past convictions, making the burden on typical courtroom prosecutors even greater.

“When you have fewer DDAs it’s easier to drown them in cases to try to force them to plead cases down,” Debbaudt said.  “Gascon’s goal is purposeful failure.”

The union – and the civil service protections – say Siddall and Debbaudt allow the prosecutors to be able to not only defend their fellow employees but the integrity of the system.

“When we are defending our members, we are defending the process,” Debbaudt said. “And Gascon would do away with the civil service if he could.”

Siddall agreed, saying out-of-control politicians like Gascon are “exactly why you want a public employee union – you need an organization to make sure he stays in his lane.”

The civil service protections are a major factor as well in the effort to continue in their sworn role as prosecutors even as Gascon makes that more and more difficult.

“He’s running a political operation,” Siddall said.  “The protection allows us to pursue justice.”

Hopefully a change will be in the offing soon, one way or another, both said.  And while they cannot hope to match the financial/political clout of unions like the UTLA, the ADDA will be watching closely as the race to replace – or even still recall – Gascon continues.

Debbaudt minced no words in describing Gascon:

“He’s a hypocrite, a mercenary, a bought and paid for sock puppet hired to destroy the justice system.”

The Office of Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascon did not reply to a request for comment.

Speaking of not replying, here are the questions posed via an email to his media relations team:

-The ADDA has been fighting the DA since nearly his taking office – why do you believe that to be so?

-The ADDA has leveled serious charges of favoritism, incompetence, retaliatory employee re-assignments, etc. – how do you respond to those accusations?

-The ADDA said the DA has been dismissive of any MOU negotiation – is that correct and where does that process stand?

-Words and terms like “breaking the law,” “doesn’t know the law,” “mercenary,” and “sock puppet,” for outside special “progressive” interests have been used to describe the DA – how would you react to that?

And in case you wanted to see the difference between the two unions referenced, here are two videos of UTLA president Cecily Myart-Cruz; the first is her speaking at the Democratic Socialists of America 2019 convention and the second is a mid-pandemic update on why schools need to stay closed and if and when they re-open there should be fewer police officers:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XwJ84Z_BLEw (DSA speech)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2ZrXblUBwQ8 (Update)

And here’s Siddall discussing the Gascon situation:


For more information, you can check out these websites:  https://www.laadda.com/ and https://utla.net/ and https://da.lacounty.gov/


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3 thoughts on “A Good Government Union?

  1. How about a taxpayers union? Then we can tell the goobermint to stuff it and then pay us to strike. People seem to forget there are 300,000,000 of us and a few thousand politicians. Time to remind them WE THE PEOPLE are the boss, not Nancy, Chuckie and the drooler.

    1. Cribbed from a Google search:
      “The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association is a California-based nonprofit lobbying and policy organization that advocates for Proposition 13 and Proposition 218. Officially nonpartisan, the organization also advocates against raising taxes in California.”

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