County attorneys union riled up over political contributions

By on May 11, 2018

A rebellion is taking place at the heart of the San Bernardino County Public Attorneys Association (SBCPAA), the group that includes about 300 County Deputy District Attorneys, Public Defenders and Child Advocate Attorneys over the union leadership’s decision to support embattled district attorney Mike Ramos for re-election.

Dozens of SBCPAA members are riled up over what they allege was an improper diversion of funds for the re-election campaign of District Attorney Mike Ramos.

Feelings are so strong for some that legal documents are being prepared to unravel action by the organization’s leadership to override a call for a recall election, according to multiple sources close to the situation.

The heart of the issue, say some of the disgruntled association members, is the secret diversion of association funds for Ramos’ re-election campaign which began last August.

The money was routed through a political action committee established just for prosecutors. But funds were drawn from a pool which included public defenders, said Laura Fragoso, a deputy district attorney.

“Most of us didn’t know about this PAC,” said Fragoso, a former treasurer of the SBCPAA.

“This is not an issue of Mike Ramos versus Jason Anderson,” she said. “It is about transparency.”

Anderson, a former prosecutor turned defense attorney, is challenging Ramos for the county’s top prosecutor’s post he has held since 2002.

Fragoso said some SBCPAA board members have threatened to tell Ramos and top DA administration the names of those opposed to the contributions.

Some union members have alleged that the initial contribution to the Ramos campaign was done before the SBCPAA’s Prosecutor’s PAC was even created.

Late last year the board secretly donated $3,400 to the Ramos campaign and $50,000 for in-kind services, of which about $30,000 has been spent, said Michael Abacherli, a past SBCPAA president.

As more association members became aware of the contribution and complained, Abacherli said the association’s president, Doug Poston, responded that nothing could be done.

Poston could not be reached for comment.

“At this point it is inappropriate to comment on anything going on in a private organization,” said Jim Secord, SBCPAA board member.

A board recall petition was circulated.

According to records acquired by IE Business Daily, thirty-one signatures were needed for the recall and the petition had 43.

The following items were to be discussed during a specially called board meeting on April 30:

  • A vote on the recall of the SBCPAA’s Prosecutor’s PAC Endorsement of District Attorney Mike Ramos.
  • Board vote on the termination of any monies or materials being used to support or oppose Mike Ramos.
  • Recall vote through electronic voting of each of 7 SBCPAA board members scheduled to occur May 7-May 14.

Fragoso said that Poston and other board members asked their supporters to attend the meeting because there was going to be a vote. The vote was whether there would be a board recall election, something which is counter to the procedure spelled out in the organization’s bylaws.

At the meeting the recall effort was “defeated” with just 19 votes, a few more than voted for it, although 43 signed the petition for the recall.

Fragoso said few members attend board meetings, because their thoughts are not welcome.

Behind closed doors the board majority voted not to spend the remaining roughly $20,000 in support of Ramos, until the situation is cleared up, according to sources.