Contra Costa County
Contra Costa County District Attorney Mark Peterson, the chief law enforcement official for one of the most populous counties in California, resigned on June 14th after pleading no contest to one count of felony perjury. Peterson, who was first elected in 2010 and ran unopposed for reelection in 2014, had been charged with 12 counts of felony perjury and one count of felony grand theft for misusing more than $60,000 in campaign funds to pay personal bills and buy jewelry and other items.

Because the election for the DA’s 2019-22 term isn’t until June 2018, with a potential runoff election in November ’18, the Contra Costa Board of Supervisors will appoint an interim DA to serve through 2018.  These are the Board’s key dates:

  • July 21: application deadline

  • Screening process

  • August 1: narrow down to 3-5 applicants

  • August 15: public meeting in Martinez at 6 pm

  • September 12: special meeting to discuss the appointment

  • Late September: appointment of interim DA

Since the interim DA will have an advantage in the 2018 election, progressives should push now for the BOS to appoint one with impeccable ethical standards who’ll listen and respond to the community; provide services to crime victims; and work to create a culture of accountability and improvements in law enforcement, the administration of justice, and beyond. A coalition of community groups and labor unions has called upon the BOS “to engage in a fully transparent and community-centered process for appointing an interim District Attorney. ” Members of the coalition, and others, hope a new DA will address racial inequities in the county’s criminal justice system.

With ten days to go, only Patrick Vanier and Paul Graves have formally thrown their hats into the ring. Questions we’d like to ask Vanier involve his reputation for being harsh toward criminal defendants, his position on bail reform, and whether he’ll seek to increase misdemeanor filings. Graves, a former homicide prosecutor, is the senior deputy DA heading a unit that prosecutes sexual assault, elder abuse and domestic violence. Often described as a traditional ‘law and order’ prosecutor, we’d want to press Graves on whether he’d offer any change from Peterson (aside from the felony criminal conduct, of course). Other names have been floated, and we’ll update with a list when the application deadline closes.

With the cautionary tale of our chief county law enforcement official resigning in disgrace as a convicted felon fresh in the minds of the public and our Supervisors, we have a rare opportunity to raise our voices in favor of a District Attorney who will advance a progressive law enforcement and criminal justice agenda. There’s much we can do!

  • Go to the Tuesday August 15th meeting in Martinez, which will be a candidate forum moderated by former County Clerk Steve Weir. Members of the public will be invited to submit questions for consideration that may be asked of the finalist candidates

  • Go to the Tuesday September 12th special BOS meeting at which the Board will interview in public the finalists

  • Stay tuned – no firm dates or locations yet but many concerned groups are planning house parties and forums where we can meet and question potential candidates

By Heidi Rand

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