San Diego County Board of Supervisors approves plan to appoint interim DA
SAN DIEGO (KUSI) — The San Diego County Board of Supervisors Tuesday unanimously approved a procedure that will lead to the appointment of an interim district attorney.
The plan opens an application period Wednesday that will run through May 31 at 5 p.m. The applicant pool will be reduced to five finalists at a hearing on June 20, with an appointment to succeed Bonnie Dumanis made on June 27.
The board would also have the option to waive its policy and make the appointment at the June 20 hearing.
Dumanis, who is in her fourth term, recently announced that she would step down on July 7 and mull over a run for the District 4 supervisor’s seat in 2018.
Two lawyers have publicly made their interest in the job known — Chief Deputy District Attorney Summer Stephan, a 27-year veteran prosecutor who has compiled an extensive list of endorsements, and Adam Gordon, a former prosecutor who now practices in business litigation and white-collar defense.
"The voters alone should decide the next elected district attorney. The power of the incumbency is so strong, that if this board decides to appoint an individual who is already declared for the district attorney’s race, the voters will be denied a fair and equal opportunity to vet all candidates in the 2018 election,” Gordon said. "Aren’t the issues in our community so important, so critical, and so timely, that the interim district attorney should be focused solely on doing the job of the interim district attorney and not on running for election?”
Several community groups have come out against having the supervisors appoint Stephan less than one year before the office is up for election, since it would make her a favorite for a full four-year term in next year’s voting.
Representatives from the American Civil Liberties Union and the Earl B. Gilliam Bar Association appeared before the board in favor of appointing an interim district attorney who will not run for the office.
Supervisor Ron Roberts said that just because an interim appointee pledges not to run for the office in 2018, as Gordon has done, there’s nothing stopping them from changing their mind and deciding to run as an incumbent.
"We’ve also had examples of a list of people who have said they wouldn’t run and we passed up on probably multiple better candidates who had an interest in running and found that for well over a year, we had to put up with somebody who is less than adequate for the position,” Roberts said.
"I hope we get a lot of qualified, a lot of very qualified people,” he said. "At the end of the day we need to pick somebody we have the utmost confidence that for the next 16 or 17 months, following the resignation of the current district attorney … will be able to carry out the duties in an exemplary fashion.”
After the meeting, the county Democratic Party posted an open letter calling for applicants who pledge not to run for election next year or endorse anyone who does, and who support an independent investigation of any involvement of Dumanis or her staff in the corruption scandal involving banned political donations from a wealthy Mexican businessman.
Jose Susumo Azano was convicted last year of illegally funneling campaign cash to San Diego mayoral candidate campaigns in 2012, including that of Dumanis. As a foreign national, Azano was barred from financial participation in U.S. elections.
Prosecutors said Azano was trying to buy influence in his vision to build a "Miami West” development on the waterfront in San Diego.
Dumanis testified that she met him twice, but downplayed the significance of the get-togethers.