Court says official must be identified
The identity of an elected El Dorado County official who was accused of misconduct by a 1995 Grand Jury investigation must be revealed, the California District 3 Court of Appeal ruled Tuesday.
But the State Attorney General’s Office is already seeking review of the decision by the California Supreme Court, which will have the final say in the matter.
If the Supreme Court upholds the decision, the ultimate outcome could be the removal of the official from his elected office.
Tuesday’s ruling was the result of a lawsuit filed by El Dorado County Supervisor Sam Bradley in August 1995, alleging that District Attorney Gary Lacy violated state law when he chose not to make the Grand Jury allegations public.
“We are pleased that the position initially put forth by Sam Bradley has been validated by the appellate court,” said Larry Ring, Bradley’s private attorney. “If the district attorney can take these accusations and shove them in his desk drawer, then what is the purpose of the Grand Jury? That’s why this was such an important issue for Sam and for me – we wanted to validate the independence of the Grand Jury.”
Lacy said Wednesday that he does not agree with the appellate court’s decision, and that his position on the issue stands.
“I took a certain action I felt and still feel was appropriate under the law,” he said. “I interpreted (the government code) as not divesting the DA of ultimate discretion on whether to prosecute Grand Jury allegations.”
The Supreme Court can do one of several things to either uphold or revoke the decision made by the Court of Appeal, Lacy said. Justices could refuse to accept the appeal – upholding the lower court’s decision – or accept the case for review and either affirm, modify or overturn the ruling.
Such a process could take anywhere from one to six months, he said.
In the event that the appellate court ruling is upheld, Ring said Lacy will have to file the Grand Jury accusation with the Superior Court of El Dorado County and serve the document on the public official named in the accusation, purported to be Mark Nielsen.
From that point would start the prosecution process, Ring said, where the public official would go to a hearing and enter a plea.
“If he pleads innocent, we will have a jury trial in Placerville,” Ring said. “If the public official in the accusation is found guilty, the penalty is removal from office. If he is found innocent, he stays in office.”
The official could also attempt to prove lack of sufficient evidence.
But regardless of what happens in the prosecution process, Ring said if the appellate court decision is affirmed, Bradley v. Lacy will be a precedence-setting case.
“If this decision stands, it has huge precedence for what district attorneys can do with grand jury accusations,” Ring said. “This has never been decided in California before.”
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