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Cooley's statements in union dispute 'false,' hearing officer concludes

November 11, 2010 | 12:06 pm

Steve Cooley

A Los Angeles County hearing officer in a legal dispute between Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley and the union that represents many of his prosecutors has sharply criticized Cooley and his managers for waging an anti-union campaign in which union officers were harassed and unfairly disciplined.

In a scathing decision issued Wednesday, Thomas S. Kerrigan found that veteran prosecutors with outstanding evaluations were transferred to less desirable assignments in retaliation for their union work.

The conclusions follow more than a year of legal wrangling between Cooley and the Assn. of Deputy District Attorneys at the county’s Employee Relations Commission. In testimony earlier this year before the commission, Cooley denied any anti-union feelings but said he had a personal dislike of some union officials, particularly its former president.

But Kerrigan concluded that Cooley’s explanations “were false and clearly pretexts” for conducting a “deliberate and thinly disguised campaign” aimed at destroying the union.

“This case is almost anachronistic in its nature with undisguised acts so bold,” Kerrigan wrote, “that they are almost without parallel in recently reported cases, continuing acts committed to destroy a labor union and damage the careers of senior deputies.” Kerrigan’s findings will go to the commission to determine how to resolve the legal battle.

The hearing officer recommended that the commission order the district attorney to rescind illegal transfers and reassess other complaints about transfers involving union members. Tensions between Cooley and some union leaders has simmered for years.

In 2008, Steve Ipsen, then the association’s president, ran unsuccessfully for election against Cooley. Around the same time, the county certified the association as a fully fledged union, allowing it to represent rank-and-file prosecutors in contract negotiations with the county. Union officials say about 300 of the office’s roughly 1,000 prosecutors are dues-paying members.

-- Jack Leonard

Photo: Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley addresses supporters last week in his race for state attorney general. Credit: Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times