After two weeks of trial, it took a Los Angeles federal jury less than 90 minutes to find that former DDA Steve Ipsen's allegations that District Attorney Steve Cooley had engaged in 'employment retaliation' and 'union busting' were wholly and utterly without merit. As a result, Ipsen and fellow litigant Hyatt Seligman will receive 'not one red cent,' and will likely face a substantial bill for costs. Equally, DA Steve Cooley emerges fully vindicated for the effective and appropriate action taken in the face of unacceptable conduct.
As the trial entered its final phase, the rumor mill was rife with reports that any remote hope of a windfall multi-million dollar sympathy-based jury award had vaporized when Ipsen folded under cross-examination.
According to the LA Times, Ipsen's 'union busting' claim seemingly fell apart when his assertions that he was given poor reviews and transferred because of his union activities were roundly countered by evidence that he 'was rude to his supervisor at the Inglewood office, comparing her to Jewish collaborators in Nazi Germany. At the same time, he was repeatedly late for work and court appearances, upsetting at least one judge.' the Times reported.
Court documents indicate that Ipsen then filed motions, perhaps to try to remedy the irreparable damage he inflicted on himself; the first was to fire his attorney - presumably so that he could present his own closing argument. The second was to fire the judge who Ipsen claimed was biased. Those motions were denied.
Seligman's claims were equally unsuccessful. On cross examination, evidence was presented that he was transferred because he had 'failed to act appropriately as a manager, making sexual references and using profanity during a meeting with his new subordinates. One prosecutor filed a complaint alleging that Seligman had created a hostile work environment. Eighteen months later, Seligman failed to report an allegation of workplace harassment when he heard that a prosecutor had used a racial slur when talking to a black secretary.' the Times reported. It is also understood that he had to admit that he liked the location of his transfer, that it was close to home, and that he had retained the same pay and grade as in his previous assignment.
Seligman told the Times that 'he disagreed with the verdict but would respect the jury's conclusion.' The Times reported that Ipsen 'released a statement after the verdict saying he would continue to fight the case in court.' Whether Ipsen was referring to a possible appeal of the verdict, or to litigation relating to his recent dismissal, is unclear. Sources indicate that the costs of an appeal would be substantial and that the chances of success are minimal.
Regardless of how Ipsen continues his vendetta against the administration, the current verdict will likely be welcomed by all who perceived Ipsen as non-representative of their concerns and as a selfish self-promoter. Many will be shocked to learn that even though Ipsen is no longer a Deputy District Attorney, he nevertheless remains an active ADDA Board Member. According to a comment posted by ADDA Past President Marc Debbaudt 'the ASFCME constitution [which apparently now controls the ADDA By Laws] says that until the termination is final after all remedies are exhausted in order to prevent an Administration from disrupting a board by a termination, he is entitled to stay on the Board. The way to overcome this is to get rid of AFSCME.' Debbaudt said.
Whether the solution is as Debbaudt says, to disengage from AFSCME, or for a demand for immediate board elections to oust Ipsen and others like him, will depend on how effective current ADDA President Donna McClay can be to assure all that the Ipsen era is over.
So far, McClay has done some good work in that direction. McClay's successful hosting of the recent DA Candidates' Forum was the first real sign that there is meaningful change at the helm. The ADDA website now has a new look - seemingly vanquishing that which prevailed under Ipsen and Seligman's tenure when the ADDA website looked more like the Unabomber's manifesto.
While the consignment of Ipsen's "Federal Lawsuit" to the crapper partially clears the dark clouds he cast over the ADDA and its claim to represent all DDAs, the damage he has done remains to be fully eradicated. It will take more than simply imploring members to become involved to rid the ADDA of Ipsen's toxic DNA. Removing Ipsen and his ilk would appear to be of paramount importance if the ADDA is to become truly representative of all DDAs.