Riverside County's former District Attorney says recent campaign activities by current District Attorney Paul Zellerbach have "raised important ethical issues warranting serious consideration for voters and for me, the former Riverside County six term DA." Grover Trask released a statement, and spoke with CBS Local 2's Brooke Beare about the contentious campaign for the county's top prosecutor.
Trask lives next door to Zellerbach, but said he's got a Mike Hestrin sign in his front yard. Mike Hestrin is a Senior Deputy District Attorney, who has worked as a prosecutor for the county for 15 years.
Trask added via e-mail, "I have not talked to either Mr. Zellerbach or Mr. Hestrin since late Feb. when I indicated to each I was not going to endorse either candidate. I do not plan to contact either at this time."
Trask was served as Riverside County District Attorney for 24 years and retired in December 2006.
When asked what issues are most pressing in the District Attorney's office, Trask said, "I have no further comment regarding the race other than both candidates need to pay close attention to the DA's leadership responsibility and stated guiding principles and goals set forth in the DA's web site. Leadership is always an issue in any DA race. This includes working closely with law enforcement and the probation department to deal with the large influx of state felons into our county due to the Governor's realignment policy and federal court orders of reducing California's state inmate population. This is the biggest public safety issue facing Riverside with over 16,000 inmates being released early from local jails to accommodate the overcrowded conditions and migration of convicted state felons to local control."
In a statement released to CBS Local 2/KESQ, Trask cited recent incidents of Zellerbach of tampering with his opponent's campaign signs. Zellerbach admitted to pulling down several Hestrin signs at a gas station in Indio, and also said he inadvertently ran over a large sign, which was then righted by a campaign aide. Both incidents were captured on surveillance video.
After a story aired on CBS Local 2/KESQ publicized Zellerbach had not reimbursed the county for use of a county vehicle while performing campaign work, Zellerbach also wrote a check to the county. That incident is also mentioned by Trask as one reason for his endorsement of Mike Hestrin for District Attorney.
The election is June 3, 2014.
The 2014 Riverside County District Attorney Race
Recent improper, if not illegal, campaign activities by Paul Zellerbach have raised important ethical issues warranting serious consideration for voters and for me, the former Riverside County six term DA.
The District Attorney is held to higher legal and ethical standards than the ordinary citizen for three reasons. The District Attorney (1) wields the power of government and with the stroke of a pen can change lives forever, (2) he is the steward of tax dollars allocated to his office and (3) he holds the public trust for truth and justice as the Chief Law Enforcement Official in the County.
Political operatives have been known to put up their own and tear down an opponent's campaign signs but what District Attorney, anywhere in California, would even think of using, a county car and possibly a staff member to carry out such improper and potentially illegal conduct? How would the public react if the Sheriff or state attorney general were caught on video tape committing such dubious acts? Any law enforcement official, including the DA, must be held to high ethical and legal standards on small as well as large matters.
Even in the heat of the DA's race, cutting legal and ethical corners to win an election cannot in any way be justified. The means by which one achieves victory in the DA's race matters more than the goal, because it reflects the very essence of the Office, its integrity and fairness.
For over two decades, the District Attorney's Office has committed itself to practicing 8 Guiding Principles that can be found on its web-site. The cornerstone of those principles has been the integrity of its staff including the DA. Ethics are non-negotiable.
Cutting a check for $203 for "reimbursement" for illegal political activity mileage on a county car, only after DA Zellerbach was caught on video at two different locations, shows he knew he did not have the legal authority. His public comment that these incidents are "silly" and "much ado about nothing" shows a serious lack of legal and ethical perspective about what is right and what is wrong.
For these reasons I am now supporting Mike Hestrin.