A deputy district attorney in Santa Clara County claims his office retaliated against him by issuing “unprecedented” security notices after being placed on indefinite leave.
San José Spotlight on Thursday published an op-ed by Daniel Chung, a deputy DA who said the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office put him on paid administrative leave after he wrote unauthorized editorials critical of the office. Chung’s latest piece accused District Attorney Jeff Rosen of several violations, including using political campaign funds to reimburse Chung for a private non-campaign expenditure.
Among the most serious allegations was a claim that Rosen issued “be on the lookout” notices—otherwise known as BOLOs—for Chung after he was placed on leave on May 28. Chung shared copies of the BOLOs and other records with San José Spotlight to corroborate his claims.
Sean Webby, a spokesperson for the District Attorney, told San José Spotlight they would not discuss internal issues. He reiterated this in response to follow-up questions about BOLOs.
“The law prohibits us from talking about personnel matters,” Webby said. “Common sense prohibits us from talking about security matters.”
Chung shared both of the BOLOs addressing him with San José Spotlight. The first one was issued May 31 and titled “DDA Daniel Chung Administrative Leave.” The memo, addressed to “District Attorney Office Staff,” states that “DDA Chung is not allowed on County property until further notice.” The memo includes a photo of Chung that he said is from a news interview.
Chung claimed the use of his photo was meant to embarrass him and serve as a warning that if deputies talk to the press, “we’re going to plaster your face on a police bulletin,” he said.
The second BOLO, issued June 2, specifies that Chung is not allowed on county property occupied by or affiliated with the DA’s office. The memo includes a work photo of Chung. Michael Whittington, a captain at the DA’s Bureau of Investigation, sent both BOLOs to all employees at the office.
Chung only learned about the BOLOs after colleagues in the DA’s office contacted him to ask how he’s doing. Chung said he’s only seen a handful of BOLOs issued by the office during his three-plus years of employment—and they dealt with people who physically threatened violence against the office. Chung said he has no record of violence in his disciplinary record.
He said his union immediately reached out to Rosen’s office and asked for a retraction of the first notice, or at least a modification so that it didn’t erroneously ban Chung from all county property. Chung said the union representatives told him they had never seen the office issue a BOLO for an attorney placed on leave.
A representative for the Santa Clara County Government Attorneys Association, which represents Chung, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Chung said the district attorney’s office not only violated his confidentiality by broadcasting his employment matter to the office, but also used vague language in the BOLO to create the impression that the administration is legally prohibited from addressing or clarifying.
“You can’t use what’s supposed to be a shield for the employee and use it as a sword by talking about it in the most vague and incomplete terms, and attaching it to an incendiary notice,” Chung told San José Spotlight. “That’s just absurd. You can’t both talk about it and not talk about it at the same time.”
A representative for a deputy district attorneys association in Southern California told San José Spotlight they had never heard of a DA’s office issuing BOLOs for an attorney placed on administrative leave. They said that distributing such a notice would probably violate the confidentiality of an employee’s personnel file.
“You’re not supposed to discuss personnel matters, especially if it’s an ongoing administrative procedure that hasn’t reached a conclusion,” said the rep, who requested anonymity because they did not want to be perceived as intervening in an employment matter. “I’ve never seen that practice in my office.”
The rep had also never heard of an office banning an employee from all county property.
“How is he supposed to pay his property tax?” they said.
The rep noted that a BOLO is appropriate if a person threatens physical violence against an office.
“You always have to be thoughtful about the possibility of workplace violence,” the rep said, adding that district attorneys aren’t supposed to reveal security risk matters.
The first BOLO went out just a few days after the mass shooting at the VTA light rail yard in downtown San Jose, located a block away from the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office.
In the context of recent violence, it’s possible the DA’s office issued the BOLO out of an abundance of caution, a law enforcement leader said.
But Chung said it was an inflammatory and unnecessary gesture because he’s never committed violence in the workplace.
“The only way that word, violence, is even related to me in the office was that I was in the violent felonies division,” Chung said. “If they had some kind of employment history on me, like, ‘Oh, this guy has done physically violent things or said violent things that concern us…’ that would make a little more sense. But (they) have zero history on me.”