Santa Clara County lawyers in the DA’s office ordered to pony up!

Lawyers in Santa Clara County District Attorney’s office yesterday were ordered to pay back up to $255,000 worth of free time they received, according to a scathing letter from the county executive’s office.

County blast’s DA’s ‘secret action’

Blasting District Attorney Jeff Rosen for his “secret action,” Deputy County Executive Luke Leung sent a letter yesterday to Max Zarzana, president of the County Government Attorneys Association union and a prosecutor in the DA’s office, demanding that the money be repaid.

As the Post reported on April 8, “Lead Attorneys,” who hold leadership roles in the DA’s office and earn about $192,000 a year, had their 5% bonus cut in September 2011 under a new contract the county negotiated with the unionized workers.

Pay Flap

To restore their pay, Rosen decided to change thousands of hours of requested vacation time off to “administrative leave,” so that employees’ time off would not reduce the amount of vacation time they had banked.

Banked vacation time can be converted to cash. An NBC investigation sparked action by County Executive Jeff Smith, who alerted the Board of Supervisors, County Auditor and County Counsel to the DA’s policy.

“At this point, we are presuming that the overpayment was accepted by the [attorneys] inadvertently, without any intention to defraud the County,” Leung wrote in the letter.

“However, this presumption is not based upon a specific investigation and may not actually be supported by the facts of the situation if there was an investigation…”

Union Outrage

Zarzana was outraged when the allegations first came out and accused Rosen of misconduct by circumventing the union contract.

Rosen maintains that he did nothing wrong and stands behind his actions fully.

“I directed does this to happen. I wanted this to happen. This is exactly what I wanted to happen,” Rosen told NBC in April.

Leung said the county is offering for the affected attorneys to pay the money back rather than launching an investigation.

“Presumably, if the [attorney’s] participation in this scheme was innocent, the county should be able to expect reimbursement for this excessive compensation,” Leung wrote.

News of the scandal sparked an investigation by the attorney general and prompted the county executive to place an administrative leave limit of 40 hours per employee, per year.

In response to Leung’s letter, Rosen issued the following statement:

“Today the Deputy Counsel Executive sent an inaccurate and misleading letter…The County Executive and I read and interpret the GAA Labor Contract differently… I do not appreciate attempts by the County Executive to bully my hardworking prosecutors.”

The DA’s office had 11 lead attorneys in 2011 and 16 in 2012. They all benefited from the policy. The DA has a total of 530 employees, including 182 attorneys.

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