Former deputy DA rolling with punches
May 7, 2003
Erik Schlueter didn’t look like a man fired from his job by a former friend who defeated him in an embroiled election for El Dorado County district attorney.
Schlueter appeared relaxed under a black felt cap. His chuckles filled a newspaper conference room. A “there-are-no limits” philosophy and an easy-going relationship with his new boss seems to have diminished the stress level.
Schlueter, a deputy district attorney for 19 years, was placed on leave a month after he lost the November’s run-off election to Gary Lacy, who garnered 54 percent of the vote.
During a campaign stop in Cameron Park, Schlueter told a group of women involved in a pyramid scheme that he understood their actions to be legal, despite opposite comments from law enforcement. Lacy used it in his campaign and Schlueter’s comments were investigated by Sacramento authorities.
Roughly two weeks ago, a civil service commission voted 5-0 to uphold Schlueter’s firing. Each of the five members of the civil service commission is selected by a county supervisor.
Chairman Ed Miller could not be reached for comment but Lacy said the commission determined Schlueter incompetent, insubordinate and violated a professional ethics rule, among other things.
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His position remains open because of the budget crisis, Lacy said.
“I was very pleased they upheld my decision to terminate Mr. Schlueter,” Lacy said. “We’ve reassigned attorneys to make sure we have coverage in all the areas that we need.”
Paul Goyette, Schlueter’s attorney during the two-day commission hearing, thought differently.
“You can’t print what I really think,” Goyette said. He added one interpretation of the decision is that Lacy can fire “anyone who disagrees with him on any public issue.”
Schlueter, 48, was disappointed with the firing, which he deemed political retaliation, and expressed no problems with his campaign. He currently works for himself, researching for the courts and representing defendants who come to him by word-of-mouth.
“Right now my current boss may be a S.O.B., but he’s got my back,” Schlueter said.
“It’s funny,” he continued. “You work a lot more with less stress and it makes you feel like you’re working less.”
His wife, Carole, currently suffers from poison oak instead of a brain tumor which was discovered about a year ago. The tumor was diagnosed as benign. He said she has vehemently complained about the itch and would like to move somewhere without the plant, such as South Lake Tahoe.
Schlueter is toying with an idea to open a private practice focusing on workers’ compensation claims and family issues regarding dependency. It appears his strongest option. He may write a book. He might teach. He spends more time with his teenage son and daughter.
“It was a possibility to be where I’m at,” he said. “I weighed all the possibilities. (If) you live in the past you’re going to miss a lot of the fun stuff going on.”
— E-mail William Ferchland at firstname.lastname@example.org