State bar looks into complaint against D.A. By Quintin Cushner/Staff Writer The State Bar of California is investigating a complaint made by former Santa Maria City Attorney Art Montandon alleging that Santa Barbara County District Attorney Tom Sneddon and two other prosecutors obstructed justice in a 2003 prostitution case. Montandon said he filed his complaint in May, and it was recently assigned an investigator. The State Bar, which regulates the professional behavior of lawyers in California, does not comment on cases unless charges are filed, said organization spokesman E.J. Bernacki. “We do investigate all complaints that we receive with regards to the code of professional conduct,” Bernacki said. “Whether or not it will result in charges or other State Bar action remains to be seen.” Sneddon did not return calls seeking comment Friday. Montandon’s complaint also alleged misconduct by Assistant District Attorney Christie Stanley and Deputy District Attorney Kimberly Smith. Stanley said no county prosecutors have been contacted about the State Bar probe. The state attorney general’s office this week rejected a similar complaint made by Montandon against county prosecutors, Stanley said. Earlier this year, the district attorney’s filed its own complaint to the State Bar, alleging that Montandon interfered with the same prostitution case. No findings have yet been made in that case. Feuding between Montandon and the district attorney’s office first became public through court papers filed Dec. 29, 2003. The district attorney’s office claimed Montandon proposed dropping prostitution charges against two Santa Maria sisters – April and Irene Cummings – 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. Montandon has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing in the matter, and in his claim accuses the district attorney’s office of obstructing an investigation he was conducting for Santa Maria. He filed a claim June 28 against Santa Barbara County, alleging that staff at the district attorney’s office engaged in a “conspiracy” to harm his reputation by distributing copies of the court documents to his co-workers and the media. County officials have 45 days to respond to Montandon’s claim, and have yet to do so. “We’re geared up to file a federal court lawsuit in the next two months,” said Montandon, who retired from Santa Maria June 30 and now works as legal counsel and assistant general manager for the Cambria Community Services District. Earlier this year, county prosecutors filed a report with the attorney general’s office requesting that agency prosecute the case against Montandon because of a perceived conflict of interest. The attorney general’s turned down the request, paving the way for prosecutors to file charges against Montandon. So far, they have not. * Staff writer Quintin Cushner can be reached at 739-2217 or by e-mail at qcushner@pulitzer.net. July 17, 2004 SOURCE: http://www.santamariatimes.com/articles/2004/07/17/news/local/news04.txt

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