After much fanfare and about 17 months on the job, Patrick O’Toole has been reassigned away from the high profile position he held as District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis’ chief in charge of the public integrity unit. You’ll remember Dumanis started the unit with a press conference in the spring of 2007. She touted the credentials of O’Toole and his colleague, Leon Schorr.

This was the press conference where Dumanis also announced she wouldn’t be endorsing candidates for political office. She didn’t want her office to be used as a “pawn” for politicians. The event was a bold stand for clean and accountable public officials. The decision not to endorse candidates was an honorable one meant to keep the stench of politics away from criminal investigations. And it stayed that way, of course, until she proceeded to endorse candidates in every single office where her opinion might matter.

That’s another story.

It was O’Toole who handled the not-so-successful prosecution of Chula Vista City Councilman Steve Castaneda — one of the two major springtime embarrassments for the district attorney. O’Toole failed to secure a conviction of Castaneda for supposedly lying when he said he did not want to buy a condo that the councilman never bought. O’Toole also briefly headed the San Diego city attorney’s Public Integrity Unit.

In O’Toole’s only case there, an aide to City Councilman Tony Young approached the city attorney and admitted to having asked constituents in Young’s council district for loans. O’Toole nailed him with two misdemeanors before moving to the DA’s office.

So why did Dumanis, who was so proud of her decision to form a Public Integrity Unit and recruit O’Toole to it, suddenly move him to another area?

I’ve so far been unable to get any comment from the District Attorney’s Office. Apparently, though O’Toole’s assignment to the unit was worth a press release and press conference, his reassignment out of it is not.

O’Toole said he couldn’t talk about it until he’d been cleared by Dumanis’ public information officers. He said only that people move around in that office all the time.

Hmm. So it’s just a random reassignment? Perhaps they all get short terms in their divisions? A prosecutor brought on to take over an entire area of public corruption investigations needs, I would think, to be in that position longer than 17 months.

SCOTT LEWIS

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