Turmoil in SoCal District Attorney’s Office

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (CN) – The Riverside County District Attorney unconstitutionally threatened and retaliated against a deputy district attorney for his work with the deputy district attorneys’ union, a longtime prosecutor and the union claim in court.
     John Aki and the Riverside County Deputy District Attorneys Association sued, Riverside County, the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office, and District Attorney Paul Zellerbach, on Sept. 4 in Superior Court.
     Aki has been a deputy district attorney for the county since 1988. He has been a member and/or president of the Deputy District Attorneys Association since then, he says in the lawsuit. Aki says the District Attorney’s Office has named him its Prosecutor of the Year five times, and was a National Capital Litigation trial lawyer of the year.
     He claims that “significant labor relations controversies arose between Zellerbach and Aki as president and/or member of the Board of Directors of the plaintiff Riverside County Deputy District Attorneys Association, including but not limited to litigation concerning Zellerbach’s intention to terminate approximately 10 recently hired Deputy District Attorneys and replace them with new employees selected by Zellerbach, controversy respecting Zellerbach’s intended hiring as a Deputy District Attorney of a political supporter who was alleged(ly) involved in prosecutorial/unethical misconduct during his former employment in another District Attorney’s office, and Association grievances filed against the Riverside District Attorney’s Office regarding computer-camera surveillance capabilities within the workplace and invasion of privacy of nursing female Deputy District Attorneys.”
     Aki claims that Zellerbach began retaliating against him, illegally, when Aki supported Deputy District Attorney Mike Hestrin’s candidacy for the office Zellerbach holds. Hestrin announced his candidacy in March 2013.
     Zellerbach proceeded to transfer him to Indio, a 4-hour daily commute, Aki says: “The involuntary reassignment was motivated by District Attorney Zellerbach in order to facilitate monitoring of plaintiff’s off-duty campaign activities in support of Mike Hestrinn, interfere with such campaign activities, and for the purpose of deliberately imposing hardship and burden on plaintiff by a commute of approximately 4 hours round trip”.
     Aki also claims that Zellerbach removed him from assignments in what were de facto demotions, and that he did it all in retaliating for Aki’s protected speech.
     He claims Zellerbach’s unconstitutional retaliation has cost him “loss of salary, benefits, diminution of retirement benefits … humiliation, indignity, loss of personal and professional reputation, physical and emotional injuries in an amount according to proof and in excess of $25,000.”
     Aki seeks punitive damages for civil rights violations, violations of the U.S. and California Constitutions, harassment and retaliation.
     He is represented by Richard Levine with Silver, Hadden, Silver, Wexler & Levine, of Santa Monica.

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