City Attorney Fired Back at D.A.

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City attorney fires back at D.A. By Quintin Cushner/Staff Writer The strife between Santa Maria’s city attorney and the Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s office continues. On Thursday, City Attorney Art Montandon issued a statement sharply criticizing the decision by the district attorney’s office on Wednesday to complain to the state attorney general’s office about Montandon’s conduct. The district attorney asked the attorney general’s office to look into possible obstruction of a public officer by Montandon in the case of April and Irene Cummings, who were convicted Jan. 21 in Santa Maria of conspiracy to commit prostitution. Montandon also made some allegations of his own. In a two-page letter, Montandon denied any misconduct and attacked the district attorney’s office for trying to discredit him. He also promised to file his own complaint with the attorney general’s office about “the district attorney’s unprofessional conduct.” In a scathing criticism of the district attorney’s office, Montandon wrote: “Unlike (Assistant District Attorney Christie) Stanley and current and former members of her office, I have never had my license to practice law suspended by the State Bar, have never been convicted of a crime, and have never been terminated from any attorney job,” he wrote. Stanley acknowledged that her license to practice law was suspended from 1982 to 1983. “There was a period of time that I failed to pay my dues,” Stanley said. “(The suspension) has nothing to do with my conduct.” Information on the California State Bar’s Web site confirms that her license was suspended from June 28, 1982, to Feb. 7, 1983, and lists “failed to pay bar membership” as the reason. Stanley said she has never been convicted of a crime or terminated from a job. She was uncertain if Montandon’s allegations applied to any current and former members of her staff. Montandon refused comment on the record about which former or current members of the district attorney’s office his allegations applied to. Montandon’s statement also noted that a judge found that Stanley and other members of her office had engaged in “prosecutorial misconduct in pursuing a local attorney.” Montandon said that the statement was made by Judge Kenneth Andreen in the case of Solvang attorney Gary Dunlap, who is suing Stanley, several deputy district attorneys and the county for $10 million, claiming civil rights violations. Dunlap filed that lawsuit after a jury’s June 30 decision to acquit him of six counts of witness tampering, conspiracy, perjury under oath and preparing false documentary evidence. Those charges were filed after allegations surfaced that Dunlap had threatened a witness and forced her to change her testimony against a client accused of inflicting corporal injury on his wife. Stanley would not comment on the Dunlap case, since it is still pending. Later in his document, Montandon said that the “motion of third party interference” filed by the district attorney’s office against him has never been filed before in the history of California. Stanley said that statement is probably true, noting that she’s never heard of a city attorney behaving in the way her office alleges Montandon has. The “motion of third party interference” alleges that Montandon proposed a “global settlement” to a lawyer in Ventura. Montandon allegedly offered to drop prostitution charges against April and Irene Cummings and settle a lawsuit brought against the city in exchange for a video allegedly depicting former Police Chief John Sterling entering or exiting the women’s massage business. As city attorney, Montandon had no official authority to drop charges filed by the district attorney’s office, and his alleged deal for the supposed tape was called a possible “bribe” in the investigation. The district attorney’s office also chided Montandon for not turning over to prosecutors a defense document that alleged tampering on the recording that led to the sisters’ arrest. From the beginning, Montandon has denied all of the allegations against him. “I am confident that an objective investigation will find that I committed no impropriety,” Montandon said. He concludes the letter by promising to reveal “the full and complete story of not only the district attorney’s unprofessional conduct, but the inappropriate conduct and motives of others working behind the scenes to cause community conflict.” Stanley denied that her office has acted unprofessionally. Both Montandon and Stanley said they are considering filing legal action against the other. “It’s really unfortunate that the city attorney has to stoop to such a low level,” Stanley said of Montandon’s document. “I’m still looking down at her,” Montandon replied after hearing the remark. * Staff writer Quintin Cushner can be reached at 739-2217 or by e-mail at Feb. 13, 2004 :nav Source: [i]The spelling of his name is also Dunlop[/i]

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