The State Bar of California, in a statement issued over the weekend, said its decision to fire former state Sen. Joe Dunn from his position atop the organization came after multiple complaints from high-level employees and an independent investigation into his actions.

Dunn, a Democrat who represented Santa Ana and one of Voice of OC’s founding board members, filed a whistleblower lawsuit last week alleging he was fired 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.

Dunn’s suit went on to say that Holden, a Los Angeles lawyer who was elected bar president in September, submitted “irregular expense accounts” to the bar and sought to usurp executive authority in a bid to eventually become executive director, according to an article published last week in the Los Angeles Times.

Additionally, one of the trustees had a longtime personal relationship with a lawyer in a firm that was paid $300,000 to investigate Dunn, the Times article quotes the suit as saying. The suit further contends that the investigation was launched after a bar official whom Dunn had accused of misconduct filed a complaint against Dunn, according to the Times article.

In its statement, the State Bar said that in July and August it received complaints from high-level employees “raising serious, wide-ranging allegations” about Dunn. The board then hired the law firm of Munger Tolles & Olson to conduct the investigation after going through an official request-for-proposal (RFP) process, the statement said.

The statement calls Dunn’s lawsuit “baseless” and specifically refutes his contentions that he was fired for being a whistleblower and his conflict-of-interest claims regarding the board trustee and the investigating law firm.

Here is an excerpt:

The lawsuit filed by Mr. Dunn is baseless and falsely suggests that the termination decision was motivated by the receipt of letters from attorney Mark Geragos stating that unnamed whistleblowers had complaints regarding State Bar officials and operations. The November 3 and 5 letters from Mr. Geragos to the State Bar did not, however, identify the Executive Director as one of the unnamed whistleblowers. (In fact, one of the allegations in the November 5 letter from Mr. Geragos alleged that the Executive Director’s staff was shredding documents.)…

…While the lawsuit alleges that [Munger Tolles & Olson] was hired based on the “recommendation” of a member of the Board who had a purported “close personal and professional relationship” with one of the lead partners at the firm, the Board member at issue had no involvement at all in the selection or hiring of MTO (that decision was made by the three Board officers) and her sole “relationship” with the attorney at issue stemmed from having been work-colleagues together in a 150-plus person government office fifteen years ago.

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