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Former deputy DA files $3 million suit

April 16, 2002|By LAURA MITCHELL

Staff Writer

A former county employee is suing the county, District Attorney Gilbert Otero and former Assistant District Attorney Ralph Cordova Jr. for more than $3 million for allegedly violating his civil rights and causing him to resign from his job.

Documents in the lawsuit allege former Deputy District Attorney Doug MacCartee suffered emotional distress while working for the DA's office that caused an early onset of Parkinson's disease.

MacCartee, who supervised welfare fraud investigations for the DA's office, alleges in the lawsuit one of his employees was working on criminal investigations but was billing his time to the Department of Social Services as welfare fraud investigations.

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He alleges he became emotionally distressed when his supervisors, Otero and Cordova, did nothing to stop the incorrect payroll billing. In the lawsuit he says the emotional distress caused him to resign his job.

Testimony from three welfare fraud investigators, Andres DeLira, Ronald Pegues and Jim L. Valdez, supports MacCartee's claim.

In a deposition for the lawsuit, Valdez stated Cordova instructed welfare fraud investigators during a meeting in January 2000 at the El Sombrero Restaurant in El Centro "not to note" other types of investigations on their time sheets.

Valdez said in a deposition he understood Cordova's instructions to mean if he got an investigation assignment for something other than welfare fraud, he should not record it on his "time study." He said he thought the non-welfare fraud time would be adjusted on his time study by the administration.

Valdez said he did not follow Cordova's instructions and filled out his time study form "the way it's supposed to be filled out."

MacCartee alleges Otero violated his First Amendment rights in January 1999 by instructing him not to discuss the billing with anyone.

Otero and Cordova, now the county counsel, said they could not comment because the suit is still in litigation.

Mike Gibbs of San Diego, the attorney who represents the county, Otero and Cordova, said he thinks the lawsuit will be resolved to favor his clients.

"We think there is no basis for Mr. MacCartee's claim that he was forced to resign from his job with the county," Gibbs said.

The case is based on MacCartee's claim Otero and Cordova forced him to leave county employment, he said.

"But we think the facts are clear. MacCartee made a decision to leave. No one forced him to do it," Gibbs said.

MacCartee also said he could not comment on the lawsuit.

The lawsuit is scheduled for a settlement conference May 16.

>> Staff Writer Laura Mitchell can be reached at 337-3452 or lauramitchell9@yahoo.com

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