Three-way race for DA |

Three-way race for DA

William Ferchland, Tahoe Daily Tribune

With three contenders instead of one, this year’s race for El Dorado County district attorney is more interesting than the last election.

Gary Lacy, the district attorney for the past eight years, ran unopposed in 1998. This year, he will have to contend with Erik Schlueter and Dale Schafer. Schlueter has been a deputy district attorney for El Dorado County since 1987. Schafer is a 14-year private practice attorney.

The challengers described inefficiencies with the office they would like to repair. Increased communication with the public and law enforcement, as well as creating specific guidelines for Proposition 215, are areas that can be improved, the contenders said. Proposition 215 is the medical marijuana law passed by California voters in 1996.

Here is a rundown of the candidates:

n Gary Lacy

The El Dorado County district attorney since 1994, Lacy believes he has improved public safety in the county and has ideas to further that protection.

Protection against abuse of senior citizens is one example. Lacy’s office has received a grant from the state to add elder abuse into the victim witness protection program.

He is also in the process of setting up meetings with law enforcement and doctors to receive input regarding Proposition 215.

Lacy’s meetings will “try to establish some standards in regards to the quantity of marijuana an individual should either use and/or possess under medical recommendation.”

Lacy said he has improved the professionalism of the office during his reign.

Encouraging his 17 attorneys to attend specialty training programs and requiring a staff of 57 employees to return letters and phone calls quickly are two examples he gave.

“My goal is to further enhance the capabilities of investigating high-tech crimes,” he said from his Placerville office.

Schlueter has pointed out that Lacy hasn’t tried a case in seven years.

“I’ve got the experience and the judgment to administrate an office of 57 employees and a $4.5 million budget,” Lacy countered. “Schlueter may be a capable trial attorney, but he has no experience in administration or management.

“I’d be derelict in my abilities if I was to abandon the needs of those (17) attorneys to satisfy my own selfish needs in sitting in a trial courtroom doing one case at a time.”

n Dale Schafer

For four years Schafer represented police and their unions. When his wife contracted breast cancer in 1997 and began to use medicinal marijuana, he became interested in the other side of the law.

He and his wife now operate a medical marijuana clinic on the West Slope in El Dorado County.

In late September, agents of the Drug Enforcement Administration raided his office and seized files of more than 7,000 patients. Schafer and his wife were not charged with a crime.

“This is not an issue on the war on drugs. This is a public health concern,” he said, regarding Proposition 215.

He intends to set specific guidelines regarding the Compassionate Use Act and send them to the El Dorado County Board of Supervisors for a vote.

He also plans to create a more structured teen and drug court in the county, he said.

“We have more laws on the books than can possibly be enforced,” he said from his home office in Greenwood. “The first order of business is to make people safe from personal harm.” Focused on tightening communication between citizens and law enforcement, Schafer plans to implement a community liaison in the district attorney’s office. He also would send a representative to community events.

Schafer favors Proposition 36, the Substance Abuse and Crime Prevention Act, that calls for drug treatment instead of jail for first- and second-time simple drug offenders.

As far as his administrative experience, Schafer pointed to being a senior associate in a large firm in San Diego and caring for five children and a wife with cancer.

He intends to be at South Lake Tahoe as much as needed since he sees it as the “major city in the county.”

Schafer served in the later part of the Vietnam War as a Navy hospital corpsman, worked as an orthopedic assistant during college and law school and taught at El Camino High School for a year.

n Erik Schlueter

Schlueter, who worked on Lacy’s 1994 campaign, now seeks to unseat his boss.

Increasing the accessibility of the office to sheriff’s deputies is one idea for better communication, Schlueter said.

“We’ve had many cases that have been dismissed because we find out about problems on the eve of trial,” he said. “Those are things that should have been solved early on.”

Schlueter would also like to try cases if he becomes district attorney.

“If you don’t know how the community is thinking then you don’t know how to evaluate cases,” he said.

As far as managerial experience, Schlueter said Lacy didn’t have any either when he was first elected.

“He has two different views on that: If it applies to him, or if it applies to others,” Schlueter said. “He still doesn’t have any managerial experience. It’s leading to low morale.”

Schlueter said he has gained administrative experience by overseeing individual district offices while serving as a deputy district attorney in Stanislaus County from 1984 to 1987. He also served as the acting assistant district attorney when Lacy first was elected in 1994.

Regarding Proposition 215, Schlueter has devised his own guidelines: A person carrying up to a pound of dry, processed marijuana, or six unharvested plants, or a combination of the two that does not exceed a pound, will not be prosecuted for possession if they have a prescription from a doctor, he said.

“If they play up front with us, we’ll play up front with them,” he said of medical marijuana users.

Schlueter plans to update the equipment in the district attorney’s office at South Lake Tahoe to match the equipment in Placerville.

Schlueter would like to find housing at South Lake Tahoe so he can be in the community “one week a month.”

Schlueter, who worked for the parole board in Sacramento before going to law school, enjoys boating and playing soccer with his two children.

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