Monday, June 21, 2010

Dudley Off To A Rough and Bumble Start

Things seem to have finally quieted down with the Josh Lynn firing. The TV news stories have dried up, the newspapers have stopped running articles, the commenters on Edhat and elsewhere have stopped commenting. Even all of the bloggers have gone silent. Well, almost all the bloggers.

I'm still worked up about this story.

Let me start out by saying that I've known Joyce Dudley for years and I'm acquainted with Lynn. Although I didn't publicly endorse a candidate I thought either one would have made a fine district attorney.

Yet what happened within a mere week of the polls closing has been disappointing on so many levels.

Let's go back to that May 3 forum that was sponsored by the Santa Barbara County Bar Association. Both candidates were asked, in response to a question submitted by myself, whether either harbored any personal animosity towards the other. With a straight face, both answered "no." Remember that the next time either one tries to persuade a jury.

Fast forward to the night of the June 8 election. Although it's apparent even before he leaves his election night party at Harry's Plaza Cafe that Dudley has soundly beaten him, Lynn reportedly doesn't make the traditional phone call to Dudley to congratulate her and concede. Nor does he do so in the days that follow.

In sports there are two traditions when a team wins the biggest game of all. If it's the Super Bowl or the NBA finals, the opposing players meet mid-field or mid-court and the losers congratulate the winners. In baseball when one team clinches the World Series it wildly celebrates on the field while the losing team sits in its own dugout and glowers. Lynn would appear to be a baseball fan.

Would making that call to congratulate Dudley have saved Lynn's job at least for a little while? Well, it couldn't have hurt.

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Sure it was a hard-fought campaign and some nasty things were said and done along the way. But the same could be said of the last presidential election. That didn't stop John McCain from appearing on the Capitol steps to witness the inauguration of Barack Obama.

Don't bother saving a seat for Lynn in the Board of Supervisor's hearing room at 11:30 am on Tuesday when Dudley is set to be sworn in as the county's new DA. I guarantee he won't be there.

For Dudley's part (and yes, I'm assuming she had a part in this, after all Bramsen says she consulted Dudley) I'll give her the benefit of the doubt and say this whole debacle is as much the product of inexperience in handling personnel matters as it is vindictiveness. What is astonishing to me is that she obviously failed to appreciate how heavy-handed this move would come off looking.

If it were me standing in Dudley's shoes, I would have let some time pass and had an honest discussion with the others in the office of whether on not there was a place for Lynn. If it was ultimately decided that he had to go, I would have offered Lynn the opportunity to leave on his own terms. If he wasn't willing to resign then and only then I would have exercised my right to fire him for "any reason at all or no reason at all."

Going forward I hope the Dudley and her executive staff show more transparency in their decision making process than has been exhibited in the two weeks since the election.

So, within the last two weeks, the DA's office has lost two of its best trial attorneys. Lynn and Dudley, who as the head of the office won't be available to handle trials on any kind of a regular basis.

And so far, we don't have much to show for it in return.

© 2010 by Craig Smith and