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Chief Deputy D.A. gave conflicting testimony

District attorney candidate Jackie Lacey, at a 2010 union grievance hearing, retracted statements that she made six months earlier, saying she'd been confused because of 'blood-sugar issues.'

May 20, 2012|By Jack Leonard, Times Staff Writer
  • District attorney candidate Jackie Lacey
District attorney candidate Jackie Lacey (Jackie Lacey for D.A. )

Los Angeles County Chief Deputy Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey gave conflicting testimony under oath during two union grievance hearings, attributing the contradiction to being confused and having problems with her blood sugar level, according to transcripts reviewed by The Times.

Lacey, who is running for district attorney and has won major endorsements from newspapers, including The Times, testified under oath in 2009 and 2010 as part of a county employment dispute in which the union representing prosecutors accused the district attorney's office of retaliating against its officers.

Lacey testified at a July 2009 hearing that she told a prosecutor who was considering joining the union's bargaining team that "it was a bad idea" because Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley strongly disliked the union's president at the time. She agreed that she also told the same prosecutor, a close friend of hers, that Cooley thought the union would be a disaster and that he didn't like the union, according to a transcript from the hearing.

Six months later, Lacey testified at another hearing for the same dispute but said she never told the prosecutor that Cooley didn't like the union or thought it would be a disaster.

Lacey, then an assistant district attorney, said she had misunderstood some of the questions posed during the July 2009 hearing and realized her mistake after reading a transcript of her testimony.

"That afternoon I was really tired and I just, obviously, was confused," she said during the January 2010 hearing. "I have blood-sugar issues in the afternoon where I lose concentration quite a bit."

Until now, Lacey's testimony at the county's employee relations commission hearings has played no role in the race to succeed Cooley, who is retiring after three terms and has endorsed Lacey to replace him. In an email to The Times last month, however, a campaign strategist for rival district attorney candidate City Atty. Carmen Trutanich referred to Lacey's "memory lapse (or flat out lying) under oath testifying in the union-busting suit against her and Cooley."

Asked recently about her testimony, Lacey told The Times she did not lie but had not been listening closely enough to some of the questions during the first hearing. She said the county hearing officer who was deciding the dispute never found that she had been untruthful.

"I made a mistake," she said. "I really should have been a lot more alert and careful."

At the time, Lacey said, she had poor eating habits that resulted in her experiencing low energy in the afternoons — a problem she said she now manages better. Still, she said she regretted that the issue of her blood-sugar level had been raised during the hearing and blamed the attorney who was representing the district attorney's office for asking her about it.

"He tried to make that an excuse, which was a mistake," she said. "That was terrible. I never authorized him to say that was it."

Hyatt Seligman, the current president of the Assn. of Deputy District Attorneys, described Lacey as "professional and fair" in her dealings with him but criticized her testimony at the hearing, particularly her explanation that she was confused and had a low blood-sugar level.

"On its face it's difficult to swallow," he said. "She, in my opinion, fell on her sword to protect Mr. Cooley, and it stood out, glaringly."

The union has endorsed another candidate, Deputy Dist. Atty. Danette Meyers, for district attorney.

At the end of the case, the commission's hearing officer found that the district attorney's office transferred veteran prosecutors to less desirable assignments as part of a "deliberate and thinly disguised campaign" aimed at destroying the union.

Lacey described the county employee relations commission hearings as a "kangaroo court" and the hearing officer's conclusions as "fraught with mistakes." The district attorney's office has asked a judge to overturn the commission's findings, arguing that the proceeding was unfair and the hearing officer biased.

The office recently produced emails showing that the hearing officer, Thomas S. Kerrigan, told the commission's executive director in private while the case was ongoing that he was "amazed at how stupid" one of Cooley's lawyers was; called Cooley "mediocre"; and penned a poem to memorialize Cooley's failed bid for attorney general that included the lines, "Hang down your head and sob; hang down your head, Steve Cooley; stuck in the same old job." Kerrigan could not be reached for comment.

jack.leonard@latimes.com

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