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Attorneys’ Group Fights Appointment in Ventura

VENTURA, Calif. (CN) - Ventura County and its District Attorney Gregory Totten violated protocol to hire an attorney, the Criminal Justice Attorneys' Association of Ventura County claims in court.

In its Superior Court complaint, the association claims that Totten appointed Kelly Keenan to an Attorney III position as a lateral transfer, without having the standard competitive examination process based on fitness and merit.

The association claims Keenan thereby leapfrogged over all the qualified applicants who earned places on the eligible list.

Keenan is not a party to the complaint.

Keenan formerly worked as a prosecutor in the Riverside County District Attorney's Office with William Charles "Chuck" Hughes. Hughes now is a chief deputy district attorney for Ventura County in charge of administrative services, including human resources, in Totten's office, according to the complaint.

After Hughes and Keenan left the Riverside County District Attorney's Office in or around 2010, Hughes began working in the Ventura County District Attorney's Office and Keenan went to work in the Fresno District Attorney's Office.

The association claims that Hughes facilitated Keenan's lateral transfer to Ventura County after Fresno County District Attorney Elizabeth Egan lost her re-election to Lisa Smittcamp.

The Fresno Bee reported in June 2014 that Smittcamp blamed Keenan for creating morale and management problems in the Fresno District Attorney's Office and said she would not allow Keenan to work for her.

Keenan began working in Fresno in late 2010 when his boss, Riverside County District Attorney Rod Pacheco, lost his re-election campaign.

The Press Enterprise reported in December 2010 that an accountant claimed Keenan had "massaged" a budget to turn a $4 million deficit into a $2 million surplus.

Pacheco and the county administrator were locked in a duel over budget cuts.

Eric Woolery, deputy director of administration in Pacheco's office, said in a sworn statement in Riverside County Superior Court that he "was ordered to manipulate budget figures and turn a $4 million deficit into a $2 million surplus," the Press Enterprise reported on Dec. 23, 2010.

Keenan, then the county's assistant district attorney, told Woolery, "I need it in the black," the Press Enterprise reported, citing the sworn declaration.

Woolery said he "(did) not believe this version is probable based on the information available at the time," Woolery said, according to the newspaper.

In the Ventura County lawsuit, filed Dec. 15, 2014, the Criminal Justice Attorneys' Association says it wants "to prohibit the 'spoils system' of employment and promotion in government service and to thereby preserve a civil service system in this state free from decision making on the basis of political patronage" (California Attorneys vs. Schwarzenegger (2009) 174 Cal.App.4th 424, 433.)

The association claims that Totten's appointment of Keenan is unauthorized under the Civil Service Ordinance.

The association seeks a declaration of the rights of the parties, a ruling that any non-provisional appointment to Ventura County classified service that is not based on fitness and merit is unauthorized and void, and that the appointment of Keenan is unauthorized and that he is not part of the association's bargaining unit.

The association is represented by Christina Stockholm, with Christina Vanarelli, of Ventura.

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