Madera County District Attorney David Linn is ramping up his battle with the Board of Supervisors, accusing all five of wrongdoing.
But one supervisor calls Linn’s charges a “smokescreen” to take the attention off the board censuring him for workplace harassment, discrimination and abuse.
Additionally, Linn says he fears for his safety and that of his family because he’s blowing the whistle. In turn, District 1 Supervisor Brett Frazier says his family feels bullied because of Linn’s statements.
In a recent exclusive interview with the Sierra Star, Linn said his office has an ongoing investigation into inappropriate campaign contributions to supervisors David Rogers, Robert L. Poythress, Brett Frazier, Max Rodriguez and Tom Wheeler from developers who are making deals with the county that could be worth “millions to billions of dollars.”
“Part of our research on the case involving the proposed development of the land in Madera County involves contributions obtained by Madera County supervisors for their political campaigns,” Linn said, “and I find it interesting most of my accusers were in some way related to real estate development.”
Linn says he will announce within two to three weeks whether charges involving illegal activities will be filed against the supervisors. His charges come after supervisors on Nov. 27 voted unanimously to censure Linn, citing results of an investigation by a Fresno law firm hired by the county that backed up allegations of the district attorney engaging in offensive and abusive workplace misconduct.
Rogers says Linn’s charges are unfounded: “The DA is using taxpayer dollars to exact political revenge and to keep us from bringing his poor behavior to light. It is abhorrent.”
And Frazier says, “A good prosecutor is one who seeks to remove doubt. Mr. Linn is doing what he did best as a defense attorney, which is casting doubt to get his client out of trouble ... this time he’s doing it for his favorite client, himself.” Frazier was one of the first supervisors to publicly face criminal allegations by Linn and after investigation, Linn later deemed the allegations to have “no merit.” Frazier is now facing a new set of allegations by the DA.
Both Rogers and Frazier point out that Linn has also taken contributions from developers, which campaign reports back up.
Reviewing campaign books
A review of fundraising reports reveals that both supervisors and Linn received money from real estate-related donors during their 2012 to 2017 campaigns.
Rogers, Frazier, Poythress, Wheeler and Linn received $1,000 to $3,500 from Richard Spencer, owner and operator of Harris Construction, a longtime player in Valley school and law enforcement building projects.
All supervisors and Linn have accepted donations of $1,000 to $2,500 from Tim Jones, principle owner and developer of Riverstone, a subdivision development of 6,600 homes on 2,000 acres in the Rio Mesa Area (the vast swath of land devoted to Madera’s future subdivision growth).
The largest contributors in Madera County campaigns have been Bob and Karen McCaffrey. The Fresno couple owns McCaffrey Homes, a major builder and developer of projects planned for southeastern Madera County. Since 2012 the McCaffreys have donated a total of $25,500 to the board as a whole.
The supervisors have individually received between $2,500 and $5,000 from the McCaffreys for election or re-election since 2012.
Linn did not receive contributions from the McCaffreys in his successful 2014 bid for district attorney. Bob McCaffrey said he was approached multiple times to donate to Linn’s campaign, but was not interested in supporting him as a candidate.
“To my best recollection he reached out a couple times via phone calls and once with a flyer, but I wasn’t responsive,” said McCaffrey.
Linn’s campaign received $5,000 from Larry Freels listed under River Ranch. Freels is a large land owner who has adjacent developments to McCaffrey in the Rio Meas area.
Rogers says that while he received two significant donations from developers, “the majority of my donations came from citizens and farmers.”
The Star’s review of county campaign contributions shows that real estate interests are frequent donors to county races. Sizable donations are also made by farmers, agricultural processors, private citizens and county services providers, including trash haulers.
Madera County Clerk/Recorder/Registrar of Voters Rebecca Martinez says the county has no campaign-contribution limits.
Zeroing in on Redrock
After he was censured, Linn targeted Rogers, alleging a county trash services provider gave improper contributions to Rogers’ campaign before he voted to amend their contract. But now Linn says the investigation has expanded to include Wheeler, Rodriguez and Poythress.
A closer look at trash services providers, campaign donations and contract amendment votes points to Redrock Environmental Group as the alleged contractor. Redrock is the company that provides garbage and recycling services at the Fairmead Landfill north of Madera and the North Fork Transfer Station. It has donated substantially to the supervisors’ campaigns over the years.
In regards to county service providers donating to campaigns, Martinez, said there are no local limitations on who can contribute.
On Dec 6, 2016, the board voted to amend Redrock’s contract to increase rates for contracted haulers from $22.80 to $40 per ton. The increases were expected to generate about $887,000 in additional revenue a year and would bring the county out of financial red ink due to growing operation costs and legal fees from a lawsuit with a former hauler.
Linn notes there are no minutes to the meeting where supervisors voted to amend Redrock’s contract. But a video recording of the meeting including the hearing and the vote is archived online at the board’s website.
Linn denies allegations
Linn stands by his belief the allegations of misconduct brought against him by members of his staff – including his making derogatory sexist and racial comments – are untrue, and says supervisors are using the investigation as retaliation toward him after the supervisors became aware that he was investigating them for improprieties.
Linn says he was not allowed to bring evidence to a Nov. 21 hearing on his case.
Linn singles out attorney Kimberly Horiuchi of the Fresno employment and labor relations law firm Liebert Cassidy Whitmore, who outlined to supervisors the results of a two-month investigation that focused on 10 to 12 staff members in the district attorney’s office reporting “harassing, discriminatory and abusive conduct” by Linn.
Supervisors “merely said what their attorney/investigator told them,” Linn says. He notes that Horiuchi is a former ACLU attorney. “The ACLU currently has a case against the county. I think it’s a perfect storm coming together.”
Fear and families
Linn has been seen at different county courtrooms with uniformed officers by his side. In his interview with the Star, he says he fears for his life. He says that on several occasions, unmarked white vehicles have closely trailed him while he was driving. He worries about the toll the controversy is taking on his family.
Frazier says he, too, is frustrated by what’s happening: “My son was visibly upset when he saw DA Linn on the news saying his father was under criminal investigation.” In an attempt to explain to his son what was going on, Frazier says he told him, “Son, you know when a bully on a playground gets caught doing something he shouldn’t, and instead of taking responsibility for it they start blaming others? ... That’s what the DA is doing now and he should know better.”
Linn has filed his intent to run for re-election in the June primary and will be proceeding “as of now.” Linn said that to run for re-election and continue investigating the board’s conduct, he will “bring in an independent prosecutor to investigate the supervisors, in order to allow adequate time to actively run.”
Madera County Administrative Officer Eric Fleming said in response: “If the DA hires a special prosecutor to continue this political nonsense, it would be a complete waste of taxpayer dollars.”
Linn kick-ed off his first campaign fundraiser on Jan. 19 for the June primary at the Branch and Vine in Madera Ranchos. The flier for the event read “Help D.A. Linn clean up Madera County and Drain the Supervisor Swamp.”