DA’s Chief of Staff Files Incomplete Conflict of Interest Forms

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Susan Kang Schroeder, the District Attorney’s chief of staff, rushed to file five years worth of overdue public conflict of interest statements Wednesday after her failure to disclose was scheduled for a public discussion  by the Board of Supervisors.

Actually, she filed the forms twice.

And amendments are sure to follow.

According to time stamps on the public documents, Schroeder filed her first set at 4:27 p.m., but used the wrong forms for several documents. She re-filed at 5:21 p.m. on the correct forms, according to the time stamps.

But she didn’t fully fill out required sections, like describing the activities of a business in which she had an interest. So amendments likely will follow.

Schroeder was named chief of staff to DA Tony Rackauckas in 2010, but never filed the conflict of interest statements, also known as 700 Forms, that all California elected officials and key state and local employees must turn in each year.

County Counsel Nick Chrisos Wednesday put an item on the supervisor’s June 16 agenda urging fines for Schroeder if she didn’t file by mid-July. The agenda came out in the morning and she filed late that afternoon.

Rackauckas and Schroeder, both lawyers, declined to be interviewed about why the DA didn’t list his chief of staff as one of the roughly 20 top executives in his office who are required to submit the public forms.

For 40 years, California government workers who make or participate in making decisions that could influence their outside interests have been required to make public outside income, investments, travel and other gifts or assets.

Among other things, Schroeder is president of a music promotion company, M3Connection, which Voice of OC reported in April and Schroeder listed on the forms she filed Wednesday, saying it brings her less than $10,000 a year.

Facebook postings show her with her M3Connection business partner, musician Scott Foster, in Las Vegas in May, 2014 along with DA investigator Damon Tucker, who also is a musician and Andy Hong, a top executive with foundations run by Orange County philanthropist and Broadcom co-founder Henry T. Nicholas III.

Tucker said in a March telephone interview the trip was “friends all hanging out for the weekend” and no one was working. He declined to identify whose private jet carried them to Las Vegas. “I’d rather not say whose jet.”

But he wrote about the trip on Facebook:

“Vegas summary – Friends, limos, private jets, Avicci, Primus, gambling, $30 an ounce imported Japanese steak, sushi, amazing discussions about music and quantum physics, clothing optional pools, SKS rocks and jamming with Foster. – with Susan Kang Schroeder and 3 others.”

Schroeder’s conflict of interest forms don’t say who paid for that jet ride or any other travel expenses others provided from 2009 through 2014.

The OC Weekly reported Thursday that Sacramento lawyer Charles H. Bell Jr., general counsel to the California Republican Party and an expert on the state’s 40-year-old Political Reform Act, which governs conflicts of interest, told them gifts of travel, no matter how much money is involved, don’t have to be disclosed if they are part of volunteer work for a non-profit.

The Weekly said Schroeder has volunteered as a legal consultant to some of Nicholas’ charities.

The Weekly reported Bell assisted Schroeder with her filings and said “she made a really good faith effort to identify things that needed to be reported. It was a serious effort to be accurate and I think we succeeded.”

The only gifts Susan Schroeder reported receiving from anyone who might be affected by her government work were flowers and a crystal bauble worth $300 from then-deputy District Attorney and now Chairman of the Board of Supervisors Todd Spitzer. She doesn’t list a reason for the gifts, but they were given in April, 2010, the same time she was named chief of staff.

Spitzer and Susan Schroeder both are rumored to be candidates for DA when Rackauckas steps aside.

According to her conflict forms, Susan Schroeder’s primary outside assets come from the companies of her multi-millionaire former husband, Michael J. Schroeder.

Michael Schroeder is a former GOP state chairman, was instrumental in getting Rackauckas elected in 1998 and remains part of his inner circle, serving as his campaign chairman for last year’s election. Susan and Michael Schroeder divorced last year.

She reports benefitting financially from two insurance firms Michael Schroeder established, one for chiropractors and another for massage therapists. But, she reported, her share from the massage malpractice insurance business was less than $500 a year.

The DA’s office has prosecuted a series of massage parlor owners and operators in recent years and Susan Schroeder, who is in charge of the DA’s news media office, has put out news releases about some of the cases.

In Los Angeles County, for decades, each public information officer within the news media section has been required to file the forms. Deciding which prosecutions to emphasize for potential news coverage—and which ones not to—are some of the decisions made by the information officers.

Susan Schroeder headed the Orange County DA’s news media office for years before becoming chief of staff and continuing that role, but Orange County doesn’t require its public information workers to file conflict of interest forms.

On the forms she just filed, Susan Schroeder reported receiving a “salary” of more than $100,000 a year from both her then-husband’s law firm and the National Chiropractic Council.

But that was a mistake, she told the Orange County Register. The income actually went to Michael Schroeder and “she’d simply checked the wrong box on the forms,” the Register reported.

Rackauckas still must file an updated list of workers in the DA’s office who are required to fill out the annual conflict of interest forms.

You can contact Tracy Wood at twood@voiceofoc.org