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BY STEVEN MAYER Californian staff writer firstname.lastname@example.org
An investigator who was fired by the Kern County Public Defender's office has been paid more than $200,000 as part of a settlement to end his lawsuit against the county of Kern and three managing attorneys at the office.
David Brown, 50, who worked in law enforcement and as a private investigator before joining the public defender's office in 2007, claimed he was wrongly fired in September 2011 after he demanded overtime pay and blew the whistle on a deputy public defender who -- he said -- instructed a witness to lie.
The defender denied the claim.
The settlement, reached in August, also reinstated Brown so he could resign, as he said, with dignity.
And finally, according to the terms of the settlement, notices of disciplinary action and the form that ended his employment were ordered sealed "to the extent allowed by law."
"What happened to me should never happen to anybody," Brown told The Californian. "They put me through hell.
"It was never about the money," he added. "Being reinstated -- that was the only way to be made whole."
The lawsuit, filed in February of last year in Kern County Superior Court, listed as defendants the county of Kern, then-Public Defender Arthur Titus, as well as current Chief Assistant Public Defender Dominic Eyherabide and current Kern County Public Defender Konrad Moore as defendants. Titus died in October 2012.
Brown's lawsuit claimed he was not paid for overtime or per diem unless he repeatedly demanded payment. It claimed he was denied training opportunities and a promotion in retaliation for his insistence on being reimbursed.
And when Brown went to higher-ups with information he said showed that Deputy Public Defender Paul Cadman asked a witness -- the sister of a client -- to lie about a purported sexual relationship with the arresting deputy, supervisors feigned support for Brown even as they began searching Brown's computer and auto records.
Reached Thursday, Cadman declined to comment on the details of the case. However, he was adamant that he would never coach a witness to lie.
"I denied it, under oath," Cadman said of the deposition testimony he gave in the lawsuit.
"I was absolved of any wrongdoing," he added.
Cadman noted that he worked with Brown on several cases over the years.
"He is a very good investigator," Cadman said.
Brown's attorney, Gabriel Godinez, said the public defender's office indicated in a letter that Brown was fired for unreported outside employment and unauthorized use of the department's computerized Criminal Justice Information Services system.
The tension between the investigator and his former employer got so bad, Brown said, the Kern County Sheriff's Office was brought in to investigate him, an act Brown characterized as more retaliation.
According to search warrants filed in Kern County Superior Court, the Sheriff's Office's investigation concluded that Brown looked up information about defendants he was not asked to check and then invoiced bail bond companies for services.
Ultimately, the Kern County District Attorney's Office rejected the case, saying that it didn't meet the requirements for criminal charges.
Asked last week about the case, Public Defender Moore said it involved a personnel matter and referred questions to Kern County Counsel Theresa Goldner, who contended that Titus' untimely death had a detrimental effect on the case.
"Art Titus was the Public Defender during Mr. Brown's employment," Goldner said in a statement. "Sadly, he died during the lawsuit.
"As a result, the county was left without its main witness to rebut allegations made by Mr. Brown and others regarding the substance of private conversations involving Mr. Titus," she continued. "I know that Mr. Titus was extremely proud of the public defender's office, and he felt very strongly that the lawsuit lacked merit. However, without his testimony, the county's best option was to settle. The plaintiff demanded at least $1 million to settle the case. The case settled for $210,000."
But Godinez said the reasons given for Brown's firing were trumped up, and that video depositions taken of Moore, Eyherabide and others in the office left his client in a position of advantage in the lawsuit.
A mandatory settlement conference forced Godinez and Brown to "show all our cards," Godinez said.
"It gave (the county) a better appreciation of the weakness of their case."
Brown said he was satisfied by the settlement, but his life, he said, has been turned upside down as a result of all that has occurred, and he will be a long time healing.
"They hurt me bad," he said.