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Monday, June 24, 2024 | Back issues
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Prosecutors Says D.A. Has Union Grudge

LOS ANGELES (CN) - A Los Angeles County prosecutor accused District Attorney Steve Cooley and his senior officials of "a pattern of harassment and selective discrimination" - including spying on him and putting a forged document in his personnel file - because he belongs to a union, the Association of Deputy Attorneys.

Deputy District Attorney James Bozajian claims Cooley and Los Angeles County discriminated against him because of their "already admitted anti-union policies."

Also named as defendants are prosecutors Curtis Hazell, John Spillane, John Zajec, Jaquelyn Lacey, Janet Moore and Sharon Matsumoto.

"Defendants have admitted in sworn testimony that they have and continued to retaliate against plaintiff and all such prosecutors who are active members and participants of ADDA," according to the federal complaint. "Defendants' discriminatory practices including transferring plaintiff, (a senior union member) to juvenile courts, consistently transfer, harass and cajole him to attempt to force him out of both the ADDA Union and the District Attorneys' Office.

"Defendants use District Attorney investigators, (ie. law enforcement officers working directly for defendants), to harass, intimidate and spy on the plaintiff, and others associated in a board capacity for ADDA.

"Each of these acts constitutes an adverse employment action substantially motivated by protected association and/or speech, including speech touching on public policy as is more fully set forth herein."

Bozajian says he has served on the ADDA board since 1993, is the union's longest-serving director and one of its most active participants. He was mayor of Calabasas City four times.

"Defendants' retaliation against plaintiff, individually, and as a long-standing board member and president of ADDA, was extreme and vindictive at times," the complaint states. "Plaintiff was punitively transferred on numerous occasions, illegal suspension without pay, false allegations in performance evaluations, and testimony confirming a pattern of selective discrimination is on record as well.

"Plaintiff sought to exercise his First Amendment rights of freedom of speech and freedom of association to engage in work and ADDA union-related activities without fear of being subjected to harassment, intimidation and defendants' policy of selective discrimination."

Bozajian says Cooley made no secret of his disdain for the union and its members, launching "unprovoked attacks" through public statements and the media.

He claims Cooley said that he counts Bozajian and another deputy district attorney as "at the top of the list" of his political enemies in the DA's Office.

"While addressing the entire board of directors during one of its meetings in 2005, Cooley called the ADDA president a 'whore.' Likewise, during a public appearance before a professional legal organization in 2007, he referred to the president as a 'piece of dirt.' During sworn testimony at an administrative hearing in 2010, Cooley referred to the entire ADDA board of directors, including plaintiff, as 'shit,'" the complaint states.

Bozajian says Cooley uses the county's email service to release anti-union messages and threatened to fire Bozajian for using the same service to send messages about ADDA business. He states, however, that he never sent any such messages through the system.

He claims that Cooley and his senior assistants sent DA investigators to ransack his office while he was at a conference, after which ADDA property "went missing" from the office.

"Between 2001 and 2011, defendants have transferred (or sought to transfer) plaintiff on virtually an annual basis," the complaint states. "This amount of movement is practically unprecedented for a Deputy District Attorney of plaintiff's level of seniority and experience. Moreover, several of these assignments were clearly punitive in nature, generally unheard of for a prosecutor with plaintiff's professional background. In total, defendants have ordered plaintiff to 11 assignments in 11 years. Cooley personally ordered at least one and quite possibly two of these transfers, something that is otherwise rarely if ever done. ...

"Defendants have actively sought to damage plaintiff's career since plaintiff first brought to the public's attention in 2006 the fact that Hazell committed prosecutorial misconduct during Hazell's prosecution of the capital case of People v. Adam Miranda. Hazell has been one of Cooley's closest friends and advisors since the two of them were college roommates many years ago."

In that case, Hazell and two other prosecutors were accused of withholding evidence that their star witness had confessed to the killing of a drug dealer. A judge later threw out Miranda's 1980 conviction for the murder.

"From at least 2003 onwards, Cooley has attempted to undermine plaintiff's political standing as an elected public official. In addition to many other actions, Cooley personally contacted at least one member of the Calabasas City Council in 2008 to thwart plaintiff's authority as mayor of Calabasas," the complaint states.

"In 2009 and 2010, plaintiff actively (and successfully) worked to oppose Cooley's campaign for California attorney general. This fact was well known to defendants at all relevant time periods."

He also claims that to deny him promotion, the defendants "promulgated at least one forged document in plaintiff's personnel file. Defendants later admitted to the forgery."

A federal judge last year sided with a former prosecutor in the L.A. County District Attorney's Office who claimed that he lost his job because of his membership in the ADDA.

U.S. District Judge Otis Wright found that Jeremy Moore had alleged facts to show that Cooley and other supervisors "either had final policymaking authority or had been delegated such authority by the county."

Cooley was dismissed from that case. In late 2010 he was the subject of a long-running labor dispute between the ADDA and Los Angeles County.

In that case, the hearing officer agreedthat Cooley had retaliated against prosecutors for their membership in the union.

Bozajian seeks a protective injunction and punitive damages for constitutional violations. He is represented by David Shapiro

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