Former state Sen. Joe Dunn was fired from his job as executive director of the California State Bar for allegedly misleading the board on key issues facing the organization, according to the Daily Journal, a statewide legal publication.
Dunn, a Democrat who represented Santa Ana in the Senate and is a founding board member of Voice of OC, was dishonest with the bar’s board on a range of issues including the views of state Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye on the sale of the bar’s San Francisco headquarters, according to the Daily Journal, which obtained an investigative report commissioned by the board.
Dunn filed a whistleblower lawsuit on Nov. 13, the same day he was fired, alleging he was ousted because he attempted to expose “ethical breaches, prosecutorial lapses and fiscal improprieties” by State Bar President Craig Holden, some bar trustees and the bar’s chief trial counsel.
Here is an excerpt from the recent Daily Journal article (which is behind a paywall):
The report, delivered to the Board of Trustees in late October, characterized Dunn as an untrustworthy leader whose explanations were not believed even by the attorneys hired by trustees to conduct an inquiry into allegations against him.
“Dunn failed on several occasions to satisfy his contractual and fiduciary duties to provide complete and accurate disclosure to the Board,” the report states. “These concerns are aggravated by Dunn’s lack of candor on several issues during the investigation.”
On Nov. 7, the board fired Dunn and announced his termination six days later.
The board has refused to state its reasons publicly. Dunn’s lawyer, Mark J. Geragos, has maintained Dunn also hasn’t been told why he was fired. The high-profile litigator sued the bar minutes after Dunn’s firing was announced. He continued that offensive in a statement Wednesday, castigating the bar for leaking information he said Dunn hasn’t seen.
“Senator Dunn categorically denies the allegations against him which only surfaced after his whistleblower lawsuit was filed,” Geragos stated. “He has never before been told about them. That he did no wrongdoing is evidenced by the fact that his termination was expressly made ‘without cause.’
“Furthermore, the leaked allegations do not involve a basis for termination, and that they are not true would have been demonstrated by Senator Dunn had he ever been told of them and given the opportunity to respond,” the statement read.
The report also takes aim at other high-ranking bar officials, including former board president Luis Rodriquez, according to the Daily Journal article.
It recommends reprimanding Chief Financial Officer Peggy Van Horn for allegedly mishandling Dunn’s expense reports, and replacing the bar’s general council, Thomas Miller, due to his likely inability to serve as an “independent counterweight” to Dunn. Finally, it alleges that Rodriguez — like Dunn — falsely told the board that the chief justice supported a move to Sacramento.
From the Daily Journal article:
The most damning aspect of the report concerns not financial improprieties but Dunn’s misrepresentations of the views of the chief justice.
According to the report, he told the board Cantil-Sakauye supported two of his major initiatives when she didn’t: his proposal that the bar sell its San Francisco headquarters and move to Sacramento, and a bill giving the bar the power to prosecute immigration consultants who pretend to be attorneys.
“Dunn knew that his statements about Supreme Court amenability to the move were severely exaggerated at best and false at worst,” the report states. “[T]he Chief Justice told us she said nothing from which Dunn could have fairly concluded that she or the Court supported the move.”
The report is equally critical of Rodriguez, who it says made similar statements. The report says Rodriguez “knew his statements were false.” The chief justice “told him in the July 2014 time period that she did not think a move to Sacramento was a good idea. Specifically, she told him she was concerned about displacing long-term employees.”
Rodriguez issued a statement Wednesday.
“Selective leaking of an internal investigation without notice of any kind is the worst kind of character assassination,” it read. “The uncontroverted fact is that my only interest in exploring the sale of the State Bar Building in San Francisco was to realize over $100 million of locked up equity that would have provided over $50 million that could have been used for legal services for the poor or to reduce bar dues.
“The Board was never misled on anything involving the consideration of the sale of the building. The tragedy here is that the sale has been blocked and so prevented the creation of a $50 million fund to help members of the bar and legal services to the poor.”
Please contact David Washburn directly at email@example.com.
Since you've made it this far,
You are obviously connected to your community and value good journalism. As an independent and local nonprofit, our news is accessible to all, regardless of what they can afford. Our newsroom centers on Orange County’s civic and cultural life, not ad-driven clickbait. Our reporters hold powerful interests accountable to protect your quality of life. But it’s not free to produce. It depends on donors like you.
BREAKING TEXT ALERTS
Subscribe today to receive Voice of OC’s breaking news text messages (free beyond your standard messaging rates).