Controversial LA County District Attorney George Gascon told voters that he would be transparent. But his record shows a troubling pattern of cover-ups, both large and small. Now, he refusing to tell voters who he has hired or for what job. Critics see his refusal to answer this simple question as evidence that he will not deliver on his promises. Others speculate that he is hiding the recent hiring of several public defenders as prosecutors.
Gascon’s Promises to Be Transparent
Gascon’s campaign website promises “prosecutorial transparency.” His Ballotpedia article claims that he will “enhance transparency and eliminate conflict of interest.” The article uses the word “transparency” no fewer than five times. The Appeal wrote an article called “A New Wave of Prosecutorial Transparency,” complete with a photo of Gascon. NBC News congratulated him for bringing “more transparency to investigations.” The Future Left wrote “Gascon is the reform candidate, who is running on a platform of ending mass incarceration, police accountability, prison alternatives, and transparency.” Gascon even created a Blue Ribbon Panel on Transparency, after a scandal in San Francisco.
Voters thought they could believe him. The ACLU, after his victory, wrote “now that the election is complete, the coalition is focused on promoting greater transparency and accountability.” Here are some examples of voters who though Gascon would be transparent:
Gascon Has Never Been Transparent
Gascon was notorious during the 2020 campaign for refusing to tell the public what is in his LAPD disciplinary records. Prosecutor Michele Hanisee described it this way: “Gascon, who has publicly advocated for transparency in the criminal justice system, apparently draws the line at authorizing the release of his own disciplinary records.”
But his lack of transparency doesn’t just extend to his past misconduct, it also includes misconduct committed by the SFDA. Gascon covered up exculpatory evidence that his crime lab was using questionable methods. He continued to do so until an appeals court ordered him to provide the evidence.
Hanisee also shines a light on Gascon’s attempt to cover up his own crimes.
As District Attorney, Gascón’s attempt to silence whistleblowers in the SFDA’s office did not stop with burying the exculpatory memo that both the author of the memo, and defense attorneys believed should be publicly disclosed. He also attempted to silence investigators at the SFDA’s office who informed federal authorities of Gascón’s apparent violations of federal law. Gascón’s retaliatory actions against that whistleblower cost the City of San Francisco $400,000.
Now Gascon Is Refusing to Say Who He Has Hired
On February 24th, 2021, the union that represents Gascon’s deputies asked for a list of new hires. They asked again on March 3rd and March 4th. They put their request in writing. They waited until March 12, when the union received a letter from Gascon’s lawyers indicating that they would get an answer by March 26th. That day came and went with no answer.
On March 27th, Gascon’s lawyers said that they were “continuing to conduct a thorough search for responsive documents.” They set a new deadline of April 9th, 2021. It is unclear why it has taken over a month to walk over to the personnel office and simply ask for the names.
The union is equally perplexed. They asked the following questions:
- What does the Administration have to hide?
- What is the Administration afraid that we will learn?
- Would the request be treated differently if it came from a media outlet, or a member of the public?
- Does the Administration’s resistance to providing this simple information relate to the ongoing absence of an organizational chart from the Office’s website?
To date, they have received no answer, nor has the public, who are nevertheless paying these new secret employees.
Gascon Has Been Hiring Public Defenders
Some of the new hires have been identified in the press. The Metropolitan News-Enterprise reported that Gascon recently hired Alisa Blair, Tiffiny Blacknell, and Shelan Joseph out of the Public Defender’s Office. Each of these lawyers had previously supported Gascon politically. The public defenders were hired without the required competitive examinations and over the heads of other prosecutors.