DA employee’s claim alleges retaliation, harassment

From the 5.16.12 issue

By Daniel Mintz
Press Staff Writer

A damage claim filed by the District Attorney’s Office’s legal office manager alleges that she’s been retaliated against for questioning “illegal practices” and the county is anticipating litigation.
The claim was filed last October and has been investigated by the county. It was discussed in closed session at the May 8 Board of Supervisors meeting but no action has been taken.
Filed by Eureka resident Jeannie Duncan, the claim includes accusations against several management-level DA’s Office employees. Duncan alleges that District Attorney Paul Gallegos used “county equipment, resources and employee time” for his re-election campaign and accuses Chief Investigator Mike Hislop and Victim-Witness Supervisor Joyce Moser of claiming work time during vacation periods.
Hislop is also accused of “appropriating grant funds” and Moser is additionally accused of “favoritism in handling checks to victims of crime.” Duncan is claiming that after she questioned the alleged improprieties, she was subjected to “discrimination, harassment and retaliation.”
District Attorney Paul Gallegos strongly refuted the contents of Duncan’s claim but said he couldn’t substantially comment due to the matter’s status as a personnel issue with litigation potential.
“When all the evidence comes out I’m confident they’re going to be proven false,” he said of the multiple accusations. “Beyond that, there’s not much I can say, as much as I might like to.”
Duncan has been on administrative leave for about a year. The claim states that she was put on leave for “an off-duty driving violation.” She was charged with misdemeanor drunk driving in a case that’s nearing trial stage.
Gallegos said that he recused his office from handling the case and referred it to the state Attorney General’s Office.
The claim also states that “Gallegos and others used pretext for removing Ms. Duncan from her position so that questions and complaints of unlawful activity could go unanswered and unresolved.”
She’s asking for an unspecified amount of damages in excess of $25,000, which is a routine request in damage claims preceding litigation or settlements.
The county’s Risk Management Department did not respond to an e-mailed list of questions by press time. In a May 10 Times-Standard newspaper report, County Administrative Officer Phillip Smith-Hanes was quoted as saying that Risk Management reviewed Duncan’s claim and rejected it.
Duncan’s attorney, Cheryl Konell Ruggiero of Los Angeles, did not reply to phone messages by press time.
Last summer, Gallegos said a personnel issue was being investigated in connection to failure to claim reimbursements for upfront spending of grant money. About a month after Duncan was put on administrative leave, an outside firm that specializes in grant regulation compliance was hired to do work in the DA’s Office.
Later, when the Board of Supervisors was asked to approve the expansion of the outside firm’s contract, Gallegos said the request “somewhat emanated out of a personnel matter.”

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