Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen admires President Harry Truman and believes the popular saying “The buck stops here.” That means that ultimate responsibility for criminal prosecutions and the District Attorney’s Office rests with DA Rosen. Santa Clara County should hold DA Rosen to his own high standard, and he should be investigated.
As an elected prosecutor who has enjoyed unchallenged power for over a decade, DA Rosen must not only pursue justice in each criminal case but also uphold the law and public trust in running his office. He has failed to do so and thus deserves to be investigated.
In 2013, DA Rosen was investigated by then California Attorney General Kamala Harris for giving thousands of hours of administrative leave (in place of vacation and sick time) to his supervising attorneys and for directing the alteration of hundreds of timesheets. This was in apparent circumvention of a collective bargaining agreement.
At the time, AG Harris had endorsed DA Rosen for his re-election, but despite that potential conflict of interest, conducted an investigation into whether DA Rosen had illegally gifted public funds and eventually cleared him. The County Executive’s Office criticized DA Rosen’s excessive giving of administrative leave and subsequently imposed a new limitation on administrative leave: 40 hours per employee per year.
One would think that with such a close call in 2013 with possible violations of the Government Code and the Penal Code, DA Rosen would have learned his lesson and would now have the utmost care and respect for the expenditure of public resources. That is not the case.
In fact, a few weeks after the publication of my first op-ed in the Mercury News, DA Rosen realized that anti-Asian violence was increasing and becoming a significant political issue. Not wanting to be perceived as retaliating against an Asian prosecutor in his office who had spoken out about the issue, DA Rosen, through his executive staff, offered me a shady severance package to push me out of the office quietly.
I rejected the severance package because it was dishonest. First, it was dishonest to the public because DA Rosen offered to gift me one month of free time. Apparently, I would be paid for a month to do nothing (or find a new job), and the public would just be told that I was on standby for emergencies (but I would basically not be expected to do anything). It was like being offered 160 hours of administrative leave as hush money.
Second, it was dishonest to my colleagues because DA Rosen wanted me to write an administration-approved farewell message to my colleagues to allay any concerns about why I was suddenly leaving the office (basically, lie to my colleagues about how everything was hunky-dory). Finally, DA Rosen wanted me to sign a contract that I would never hold a county job ever again—probably to eliminate any possible political threats in the future.
Even when I brought to DA Rosen examples of his hypocrisy and possible law violations, he took no action and instead just doubled down on his efforts to push me out. When I asked why external organizations like NAPIPA (an Asian prosecutor association) and their members were allowed to use the office’s resources (e.g., physical address, official title, office email, and office logo)—taxpayer resources—to engage in political and other non-business activities during business hours, I was informed that NAPIPA is authorized by DA Rosen.
When I asked why DA Rosen was apparently using political campaign funds (a PayPal account labeled “Jeff Rosen for District Attorney”) to reimburse me for private non-campaign expenditures, I was informed that DA Rosen just forgot to change the account name.
When I showed that I had used my personal paid Zoom account to host team meetings (because my previous supervisor had failed to set up his county account for months), I received no response or reimbursement.
When I showed that I—a subordinate—had expended hundreds of dollars to host a catered office lunch for international prosecutors, my investigating executive DA, and DA Rosen during the middle of the pandemic without reimbursement, my investigating executive DA scrambled and contacted our office’s finance department to try to approve a late retroactive reimbursement to me in apparent repeat violation of meal reimbursement rules.
Partly because of my whistleblowing efforts, DA Rosen now sees me as a political threat that needs to be eliminated at all cost. That is why he has now placed me on indefinite paid administrative leave, costing the county thousands of dollars and getting no work out of me.
That is why I believe the DA’s Office is now willing to lose evidence (the full recording of my first disciplinary hearing is gone) and insert blatant lies in disciplinary findings.
Unable to impeach my work ethic and work product, DA Rosen wants to assassinate my character while I am out of the office and rummage through my office and property. He is even willing to issue unprecedented BOLOs against me, to stir up unjustified anxiety, fear, and speculation among my colleagues.
In 1945, President Truman authorized the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It was the first and only time nuclear weapons were used in war, and hundreds of thousands of Japanese civilians died. In a diary entry before the bombings, President Truman wrote that “Japs are savages, ruthless, merciless and fanatic” and that the atomic bomb “seems to be the most terrible thing ever discovered, but it can be made the most useful.”
This is who DA Rosen admires. Corruption issues plagued the Truman administration and prevented President Truman from running for re-election in 1952. Perhaps DA Rosen will experience a similar fate in 2022 for his dishonesty and corruption. They certainly warrant investigation.
Editor’s Note: Daniel M. Chung is on indefinite paid administrative leave as a prosecutor from the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office. He clarifies to San José Spotlight that this op-ed reflects only his personal views and that he is writing only in his personal capacity (not on behalf of or as a representative of Santa Clara County).