Lockyer Dances the Dipsy-Do, Tricky-Lawyer Thing With DA

Did the attorney general really clear Rackauckas in corruption scandals?

Yeah, and so?

"Lockyer has never used the word 'clear,' when speaking about Rackauckas," Barankin said. "The [Oct. 18] letter represents the thinking of the attorney general and the Department of Justice. Let there be no confusion about that."

But Barankin's version doesn't jibe with Pasco's recollections. "I just didn't show up and do a drive-by (firing unexpected hostile questions)," the Times reporter said. "I called before the fund-raiser and asked for an interview, and he agreed to do it knowing full well what I would ask about. So it wasn't done on the fly, and his answers were unequivocal. I asked if he was going to be doing anything more with Rackauckas, and he said, 'No.' He left no room for doubt."

* * *

If Lockyer is flip-flopping, Rackauckas has been decisive. Nobody—except perhaps his misguided adviser, Republican strategist Michael Schroeder—can be certain how long after the Times' Sept. 28 story the DA waited to resume the moronic plotting and bungling that has plagued his four-year-old administration. It was apparently a matter of just minutes. On Oct. 26, Deputy District Attorney Michelle Lyman added her name to the list of more than 25 veteran prosecutors and detectives who have fled Rackauckas' scandal-ridden office in disgust. Lyman quit after the DA personally intervened in a case on behalf of Atlantic Richfield Co., whose shoddy underground gasoline-storage tanks have allegedly contaminated the county's drinking water supply.

If history is any indication, Rackauckas takes joy in siding against his prosecutors and with suspects—if those suspects are his campaign contributors. In two prominent earlier cases, the DA blocked his deputies from full investigations of two of his Newport Beach buddies: U.S. Ambassador to Spain George Argyros (whose property-management firm ran a $33 million "systematic rip-off scheme" against poor Vietnamese and Mexican immigrants) and Patrick N. DiCarlo (whose relationship with at least one East Coast mob family member raised suspicions in the DA's organized-crime unit).

The grand jury noted that Rackauckas, who is responsible for enforcing laws in Orange County, appears oddly unconcerned about the "appearance of impropriety." Sources in the DA's office say their boss has only been emboldened lately. In one example, a cocky Rackauckas told county officials in July that he was overriding the prohibition on using government accounts for alcohol expenses. The grand jury discovered that the DA had used taxpayer funds to pay more than $4,600 in bar bills for just one member of his staff, Don Blankenship.

On Oct. 8, four days after the Weekly story "Rackauckas Gives Aides Reason to Belch," the DA reversed himself and said he'd comply with the county's anti-alcohol policy. Nevertheless, according to records obtained under the California Public Records Act, Rackauckas hilariously continues to insist the consumed alcohol—enjoyed largely at the private Santa Ana Elks Lodge—should be considered legitimate expenditures on "legislative efforts." County auditor David Sundstrom is now trying to inspect the DA's expense reports.

Rackauckas' arrogance extends beyond word games and bar bills. "Since he believes Lockyer doesn't have the political will to come after him, he has become worse," said a deputy district attorney and former Rackauckas enthusiast. "The atmosphere [in the DA's office] is so tense, so unhealthy. There's a screw-up around every corner, and we can't fully focus on our responsibilities as deputy DAs. It's a nightmare."

To read the Lockyer letter in its entirety, follow these links.
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