District Attorney Tony Rackauckas, whose office is embroiled in a jailhouse informants controversy that’s drawn national attention, acknowledged to county supervisors Tuesday that he has yet to follow through on a commitment to respond in writing to a scathing report on the issue released months ago.
The report, issued in early January by a panel of experts chosen by Rackauckas, said some DA prosecutors are consumed by “a win at all costs mentality” and that a “failure of leadership appears to have contributed to the jailhouse informant controversy.”
The panel made a series of recommendations, including the hiring of additional personnel at the DA’s office, particularly a “chief ethics officer” and “an independent ‘monitor’” for three years. It also recommended that he demote his chief of staff, Susan Kang Schroeder.
While Rackauckas refused to demote Schroeder, he said during a news conference he would implement several of the other recommendations.
On Jan. 12, Rackauckas told supervisors in closed session that he would provide a report outlining which of the recommendations would be implemented, how much they would cost, and why he’s rejecting some of the recommendations. He suggested the response would be provided a couple of weeks later, according to supervisors and Rackauckas.
But three and a half months later Rackauckas still hasn’t provided the response. The issue emerged as supervisors were about to vote on a mid-year, $3.6 million budget increase request by Rackauckas.
On Tuesday, when supervisors’ Chairwoman Lisa Bartlett noted that the board hadn’t received Rackauckas’ response to the report, he said the panel response is separate from his budget request, which doesn’t ask for any additional positions related to the panel report or informants controversy.
He said he’s talking with a former federal judge and federal prosecutor about becoming the monitor, as well as another person who could potentially be the ethics officer. But Rackauckas said those would be brought up as outside contracts, rather than staff positions.
Bartlett said she’s “happy to hear” about progress being made, but that the board had requested a response to the report, and that it should be made available.
Supervisor Todd Spitzer, an heir apparent-turned-foe of Rackauckas’, challenged him further. Spitzer said he thought Rackauckas would have at least sent supervisors a message saying he needed more time for his response, just “as a courtesy.”
“It’s been frustrating that you told us that you would come back to us” within a couple weeks and it’s been a couple months, Spitzer said.
Rackauckas shot back at Spitzer, saying it was “frustrating” that the DA volunteered to provide the response in a couple of weeks and Spitzer came to a public meeting and said he ordered and directed Rackauckas to do it.
Spitzer responded that afterwards, he clarified publicly that no one ordered the DA to do anything. He pressed the DA for an answer on when he’ll respond to the panel, as promised.
“What I don’t want to do is to give a statement at this point” on when it will be done, when it’s not completed, Rackauckas replied.
Supervisors then passed the DA’s $3.6 million budget increase, described vaguely in the budget request as being needed “to meet current year operational needs,” without a clear answer of when the panel response will be available.
Nick Gerda covers county government for Voice of OC. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.