War of the Jeffs: District Attorney, County Executive Spar over Pay Bumps

Two years ago, District Attorney Jeff Rosen cleverly cushioned the effects of county-mandated pay cuts for some of his senior prosecutors through an accounting loophole. After his top supervisors were disproportionately affected by the cuts, he started giving them “admin leave” so they could collect vacation time for a payout down the road to replace lost wages. The slick move, legal under county policies, got the attention of County Executive Jeff Smith, whose contract expires this summer. Smith sent a letter questioning Rosen’s actions to Attorney General Kamala Harris, an interesting move considering: 1. County counsel has already blessed the pay bumps; 2. The county this week issued a memo that capped but didn’t eliminate the admin leave accruals; and 3. A few months ago Smith begged Rosen to pass along the investigation of felonious former county Supervisor George Shirakawa Jr. to the AG, which could have extended Shirakawa’s crime spree as the investigation took place from afar. “I just thought out of an abundance of prudence it would reasonable to have the AG do it,” Smith says. And now he’s dropping a dime on Rosen? It could be payback for the Shirakawa prosecution or Smith simply trying to take some heat off of himself. A curious subplot Tuesday were dueling letters fired off by Smith and Rosen, the latter of whom claimed Harris might have a conflict in investigating the matter because she’s endorsed his re-election in 2014. Harris’ office, meanwhile, says that the AG has yet to endorse anyone. Awk-ward. But if observers needed more proof that county officials are cannibalizing each other, the Government Attorneys’ Association (GAA), which has fought Rosen’s efforts to rid the department of unethical prosecutors, may have been the one to rat out the DA in an anonymous letter to Smith. The whole issue came to a head when Rosen was forced to investigate one of his own prosecutors, James Sibley, who conveniently didn’t notice that he had been paid about $15K too much in admin leave. When the GAA cried foul on Rosen, the county responded by capping all admin leave at 40 hours per year. So, aside from scoring a political hit on Rosen, the GAA has accomplished little except limiting one type of compensation its members can accrue. Aren’t unions supposed to get more pay for their dues payers—or are kamikaze attacks the new grape boycott?

Below is the correspondence between Smith and Rosen that took place Tuesday and Wednesday morning.

Email from County Executive Jeff Smith to District Attorney Jeff Rosen

Press Release from DA Jeff Rosen in Response to County Exec Jeff Smith

Letter from County Executive Jeff Smith to Attorney General Kamala Harris

The Fly is a weekly column written by San Jose Inside staff that provides a behind-the-scenes look at local politics.

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