Local News

Wednesday, Feb 08 2012 08:10 PM

Former investigator sues county, top public defenders

BY RACHEL COOK Californian staff writer rcook@bakersfield.com

A former Kern County Public Defender's office investigator is suing the county and several top public defenders alleging he was wrongly fired after he demanded overtime pay and blew the whistle on a deputy public defender who -- he said -- told a witness to lie.

A complaint filed on behalf of David Brown in Kern County Superior Court this week listed the county, Public Defender Arthur Titus, Chief Deputy Public Defender Dominic Eyherabide and Chief Assistant Public Defender Konrad Moore as defendants.

Titus said Wednesday afternoon that he hadn't had a chance to look at the lawsuit or speak with county counsel about it. However, he said Brown was fired only for the reasons outlined in his letter of termination and that the Public Defender's Office does not instruct witnesses to lie.

"Nobody in this office has encouraged any witnesses to lie," Titus said.

Brown's suit alleges that he was not paid for overtime or per diem wages unless he repeatedly demanded payment. The suit said Brown was denied training opportunities and a promotion in retaliation.

The suit said that on April 28 last year, Brown sat in while deputy public defender Paul Cadman interviewed a witness who was the sister of a defendant in a criminal case.

After the interview, the witness contacted Brown and told him that Cadman asked her to lie about "the facts and circumstances" of the case and to say she had a sexual relationship with a female Kern County Sheriff's Department deputy who arrested the witness' brother when she did not, the suit said.

Brown's attorney, Gabriel Godinez, said his understanding is the witness was told that discrediting the deputy could help her brother's case.

Calls to Cadman for comment were not returned.

Brown reported the allegations to his immediate supervisors, who agreed that "Cadman had engaged in unethical and illegal behavior," the suit said.

Eyherabide emailed Brown on May 13 saying an investigation was being started into alleged attorney misconduct and asking for all documentation of the alleged misconduct, according to the suit.

The complaint said Brown provided copies of the information but Eyherabide was adamant that he wanted the original copies too, which Brown kept.

The suit said Brown was wrongfully fired on Sept. 30.

Brown's attorney said the public defender's office's letter says Brown was fired for unreported outside employment and his use of the department's computerized Criminal Justice Information Services system. Titus said, "There was no other basis for (Brown's) firing" than the reasons detailed in the letter.

Godinez said the reasons given for Brown's firing are trumped up.

Tensions between Brown and his former employer came to light late last year when the Sheriff's Department investigated Brown for misuse of the CJIS system.

The investigation concluded that Brown looked up information about defendants he was not asked to check and then invoiced bail bonds companies for services including "fugitive recovery" and "investigative hours," according to search warrants filed in Kern County Superior Court.

However, the District Attorney's Office rejected the case. Supervising Deputy District Attorney Michael Yraceburn said the facts of the case didn't meet the requirements for criminal charges, but said that doesn't mean the actions couldn't violate an office's policy.

Brown is suing the county and three public defenders for wrongful termination in violation of public policy, age discrimination in violation of the Fair Employment and Housing Act, failure to prevent discrimination and intentional infliction of emotional distress. He is seeking what the suit called front pay and back pay, damages and reinstatement, the suit said.

Godinez said the main point of the suit is to clear Brown's name.

"Now this is his opportunity to tell the truth, to bring to light what transpired at that office," Godinez said.

Brown also filed a claim against the county Tuesday alleging Titus defamed him in October by falsely accusing him of criminal acts, which hampered Brown's employment opportunities, according to the claim.

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