DA writes personal check to pay SLO County legal bill

January 28, 2016
District Attorney Dan Dow

District Attorney Dan Dow

San Luis Obispo County District Attorney Dan Dow wrote a personal check to pay a highly contested $2,874 county legal bill. Dow used his own money to pay the bill after the county board of supervisors refused to let him use district attorney’s office funds to cover the expense.

Dating at least back to last April, Dow has clashed with Supervisor Bruce Gibson, County Counsel Rita Neal and other top county officials over multiple issues relating to employee pay. The primary point of contention was a more than 30-year practice of deputy district attorneys receiving paid time off in exchange for on-call work in which they make themselves available around the clock to help law enforcement officers with search warrants.

The county received a whistleblower complaint last March about the paid time off issue. Several county officials say the compensation arrangement violates state law.

Last April, the board of supervisors met with Dow in closed session and ordered him to put a halt to the paid time off practice. Dow then discontinued the practice.

But, Dow later sought another legal opinion on the matter. Dow said he did so when county auditor Jim Erb said he was considering recouping some of the pay from deputy district attorneys.

Dow obtained an opinion from Fullerton law firm Jones & Mayer, which stated the pay arrangement is legal. Jones & Mayer billed the district attorney’s office $2,874.

Erb then told Dow he needed to get approval from the board of supervisors before he could use county funds to pay the legal bill. Erb recommended that the board approved payment of the bill.

But on Jan. 5, the board voted 4-1 not to approve the payment. Supervisor Debbie Arnold cast the lone vote in favor of paying the bill.

The Jan. 5 hearing also morphed into an hour-long debate, largely between Gibson and Dow. Gibson accused Dow of unethical conduct and persuaded the board majority to reveal what was said in closed session between the district attorney and the supervisors.

Many observers have said political leanings were at the heart of the feud. Dow, a Republican, has aligned himself with rivals of Gibson, a Democrat. Dow has endorsed the current supervisorial campaigns of Arnold and John Peschong, a Republican strategist vying to replace retiring Supervisor Frank Mecham.

Dow said he paid the legal bill using his family checkbook a few days after the board voted not to approve the payment. Dow said he disagreed with the board decision, but he paid the bill in the interest of moving forward.


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Snoid

Wallace and Seitz have been using public funds for decades to prove or disprove matters directly linked to their personal decisions,actions or curiosity. That leaves two scenarios, Gibson, STFU and pay Dow back, or nail Wallace and Seitz to the wall for the millions in legal fees they have stole. Whats its gonna be Gibson?, man up, no more pandering and ass kissing of your friends and/or financial beneficiaries.


marcusaurelius

He is too busy prosecuting low level criminals who committed a crime against the state where there is no victim per se. e.g victim less crimes. He does this because he is an agent of the Prison Industrial Complex which in turn rewards graduates of Hayward State University (absolutely laughable) like himself with above average gainful employment. Should he go after Wallace with 40,000 victims, that would rock his whole power structure.


hotgrandma

Would also like to hear from Supervisor Gibson which line item of the County budget covered his girlfriends’ salary during their “afternoon” delight”.t.


marcusaurelius

prove it.


The County Auditor cant be bothered. Keep in mind this guy is a CPA, and he “trusts” that it was actually paid by the DA out of his personal account. What else does the man in charge of a $564M a year budget trust is happening as intended? In public accounting at Ernst & Young, we called this a “ghost’ procedure. A procedure you were to lazy to perform or didnt want to know the answer to. If colleagues at Ernst & Young ever suspected you of ghost procedures you were relegated to meaningless work til you left. Apparently in the government sector ghost work puts you in charge of a $564M a year budget. Notice the Jim Herb does not deny the bill was paid by the county nor does he confirm the the bill was paid by Dan Dow.


Jim Erbs response to a public records request:


On Wednesday, January 20, 2016 8:56 AM, “jerb@co.slo.ca.us” wrote:


Hello. Regarding your questions below. 1) DA Dan Dow did claim he personally paid the $2,874 legal invoice to Jones and Mayer. I do not have any reason to doubt him. 2) The hearing was concluded with a 4 to 1 decision, the Board of Supervisors (BOS) voted to not pay the invoice which would include not providing reimbursement. 3) DA Dan Dow did issue a statement right after the BOS meeting which is included below. 4) I believe the issue is closed.


“While I am very disappointed that the Board chose not to close this matter today by approving this modest payment from the District Attorney’s already approved, budgeted, and available funds, I respect their decision. I will now consider what options lay ahead including whether the decision may be reviewed by the Superior Court,” said District Attorney Dow following the Board’s vote.


Let me know if you have additional questions.


Jim Erb


rightantru

The answer provided by Jim Erb seems pretty clear to me, he says he believes Dan Dow paid the bill himself and he knows the county did not. Its not like Mr. Erb could demand to see Mr. Dows personal checkbook!


marcusaurelius

I want to be your CPA.


achillesheal

If only Government were so frugal with the millions they waste each year.


Penny wise pound foolish.


Enjoy the bump in pay for that overtime. I don’t know about county/city, but state employees get a minimum 4 hours for a callback even if it lasts 15 minutes.


hijinks

Dan can afford this — $219,541 in compensation in 2014, before becoming DA, more now. Transparentcalifornia.com.


RememberWhen

Correct!


A mere 1.3% of Dow’s compensation will be going towards his own interest so he can take more time off and leave early.


Noble effort, sir!


SLO_Johnny

Thanks to the Board, Deputy D.A.s will now charge overtime for work they do helping with warrants and other work done after business hours. They will no longer work overtime for free. By California law, they will actually be paid MORE. The action of the Board are asinine, and example of petty party politics. Once again, the taxpayers are hit with the bills which will be much more than the $2,874.


paragon

How nice for the DA. Meanwhile the rest of us salaried exempt professionals normally do not get a dime of overtime pay for extra hours we work beyond 40 per week. That’s why it’s called an “exempt” position (which an attorney would be classified as), only “non-exempt” employees have to get overtime under state law.


I’m not saying the DA shouldn’t get overtime – just that state law does not require that he does, due to his job being an exempt professional job.


marcusaurelius

very astute point and observation. What part of exempt does Dan Dow not understand? The exempt law applies to everybody but the law huh?


kayaknut

“they will actually be paid MORE”, either you have no idea how government works or you don’t want the secret to get out. What government employees often do is save these extra days off until time to retire then regardless of at what salary these days were acquired they get paid for these “unused days” at the salary they are making at their retirement, normally much higher.


jonhartz

Dow understands that honor is a gift that a man give himself. The BOS dishonored themselves here. Why, Lynn Compton?


marcusaurelius

Lynn Compton understands the meaning of “exempt”. Something lost on the county’s top CPA and Lawyer.


Black Copter Pilot

This validates my decision to vote for Dow, election last.


joseywales

yeah, we have someone just as corrupt as the rest of the lot.


Stunned

This is about the most asinine display of politics I’ve seen in awhile. When your D.A. accrues legal expenses for a justifiable expense you pay it. We need to depress the silver handle and flush that whole bunch!


kayaknut

Justifiable?? to a firm a friend of his is connected with, and the taxpayers should pay for this???


jonhartz

So you never, ever do business with anyone you know and trust. Erb approved it, read the story.


kayaknut

Not when someone else is paying the bill, When it is my money sure I want someone I know and trust but when someone else is paying the bill I also need to make sure the project was all upfront, but here Mr. Dow is paying someone, trying to bill it to the taxpayers money, to prove that more taxpayer money needs to be spent on his department. It is always nice when you are using someone else’s money.


joseywales

exactly. somehow Dan Dow thinks he is above procedure and exempt laws. County lawyers are exempt from exempt laws.


SLOBIRD

Certainly the bigger person in the room. When you read how people like Wallace, Seitz, Kilvey, City of SLO employees all get away with stealing, embezzlement, selling city goods, etc. and the County Board of Supervisors won’t paya $2,874 county legal bill because of political throw back and yet are spending millions on the Paso Robles basin. Just another sign of corruption.


Vote Debbie Peterson!