In its final report just out, the Inyo County Grand Jury failed to get any answers from District Attorney Art Maillet on allegations that he improperly released confidential documents on his political opponent prior to the June, 2010 election, but they did tell him to start communicating with news reporters. The Jury Report says that the reason for their investigation into the DA was that according to California Penal Code, “The Grand Jury shall inquire into willful or corrupt misconduct in office of public officers of every description within the County.”
In days before the 2010 election, former Assistant DA Mark Johnson had contacted a reporter at Sierra Wave Media and offered to release unflattering documents from the DA’s office on Maillet’s political opponent, Gerard Harvey. Johnson was placed on administrative leave for releasing the documents. He then admitted under oath in a 2011 murder trial that this document release led to his “early retirement.” He also testified that DA Maillet knew about the document release and “authorized” it. The documents released on DA candidate Gerard Harvey were allegations, in part, which did not lead to any criminal charges or convictions. Some of the documents were deemed confidential. At the time, DA Maillet refused to comment.
He also apparently refused to comment much to the Grand Jury. The Jury addressed the release of information about Maillet’s political opponent, including Maillet’s knowledge of such a release. The Report says that this issue “has been reviewed and concluded by the State Attorney General and the State Bar Association for ethics violations.” The Jury Report offered no explanation of these reviews.
The Jury reported that “The District Attorney would not discuss what he expressed was an ‘internal personnel issue’ regarding the release of information by someone in his office (and his advance knowledge of said release) about a DA elections opponent.” It is unknown if the Jury interviewed anyone else on this matter nor why they did not compel the DA to respond to allegations of improper behavior.
The Jury did conclude that there is a lack of communication between Maillet and the news media. They recommended that the DA “make regular press releases, in writing, to end what the DA expressed is a flow of misinformation and misstatements through the press.”
Maillet’s blame-the-press defense remains just that. Maillet has never publicly explained any inaccuracies in news reports about legal cases or about his or his employees’ behavior. We placed a call to Maillet for his comment on the Grand Jury Report, and he was unavailable.
On the statements and reports that Maillet authorized the alleged improper use of his office for political gain, the Jury responded, “While the District Attorney is to be commended for defending his ‘personnel issue’ confidentiality position, it is the recommendation by this Grand Jury that he be more forthcoming with public information and its release, upon request.”
The Jury apparently gave Maillet a free pass on dissemination of confidential legal documents but pressed him to start talking to the media. They also recommended that the County should conduct “an ongoing workshop for all County executives on ways to keep and improve media and public relations.” There is more in the Report, and we’ll have that on later posts.