Allegations fly in Sutter County DA’s office strife

December 15, 2017 GMT

After three months of administrative leave, the Sutter County District Attorney’s Office is moving to fire its chief investigator.

But Jason Parker said he is fighting the termination and filing a lawsuit.

In a written statement provided to the Appeal-Democrat on Thursday, Parker said he reported his boss, District Attorney Amanda Hopper, to the state Attorney General’s Office for alleged theft of public funds, participating in an illegal wiretap, furnishing a controlled substance to a DA investigator and improperly using California Public Safety realignment funding.

The statement was provided by Parker’s attorney, local lawyer Chris Carlos, who made clear that the allegations are being made by Parker himself.

In a phone interview Thursday, Hopper said she could not comment on confidential human resources matters. But she said the allegations are lies and that she is not aware of any investigation into claims against her.

Allegations are also made against Sutter County Counsel Jean Jordan, who Parker says he reported to the Board of Supervisors for unethical conduct.

“The decision to fire Mr. Parker is clearly because he blew the whistle on DA Hopper and County Counsel Jordan for their unethical and/or criminal behavior,” the statement reads. “The County of Sutter has been notified that Mr. Parker will be appealing the decision to terminate his employment and he will be filing a federal lawsuit under the whistleblower protection laws.”

Parker was placed on leave in August, days after the District Attorney’s Office received notice of his pending lawsuit alleging a hostile work environment. According to Carlos’ statement at the time, Sutter County had not notified him of any specific allegation against Parker.

According to Thursday’s statement, Carlos notified the Board of Supervisors on Parker’s behalf of “unjustified actions, retaliation and discrimination” in hopes they would intervene on behalf of county employees.

“However, that fell on deaf ears,” according to the statement.

Jim Whiteaker, chairman of the Board of Supervisors, said Thursday that the board cannot comment on human resources matters or pending litigation.

The statement also alleges that a District Attorney’s Office employee filed a complaint with Parker alleging discrimination by Hopper, which Parker reported to Sutter County Human Resources. He claims Hopper is under investigation for the complaint.

Parker also reported Jordan for ethical violations during a pending lawsuit, and attempting to initiate a criminal drug investigation into pilots at the Sutter County Airport, according to the statement. The investigation, it claims, was an attempt to shut down the airport as the county is in dispute with the Federal Aviation Administration because of actions taken by the county.

Jordan said in an email Thursday that the county cannot comment on confidential human resources matters and does not comment on actual or threatened litigation.

“The county is not in a dispute with the FAA,” Jordan wrote. “We are not aware of anyone initiating a criminal drug investigation against the Sutter County Airport pilots; including County Counsel.”

The FAA did not respond to a request for comment in time for publication.

The written statement alleges that Parker was placed on administrative leave after he reported Hopper to the Board of Supervisors and the Attorney General’s Office, and that Jordan was placed in charge of the investigation against Parker – a “disturbing and... clearly retaliatory” move.

“Hopper solicited help from other Sutter County Department Heads who will also be named in Parker’s lawsuit,” according to the statement. “There will thus be yet another lawsuit filed against Sutter County and the SCDA office bc of the actions of DA Hopper.”

Parker was hired as chief investigator in July 2015. Before that, he worked as a detective for the Yuba City Police Department for 12 years and at the Yuba County Sheriff’s Office for six years.

While providing the Parker’s statement Thursday, Carlos said the whole situation with the District Attorney’s Office had pushed him into deciding to make a run for district attorney in next year’s elections.

The Sutter County District Attorney’s Office is named in at least two other lawsuits.

– The most recent action is a $10 million lawsuit filed in August by Michael P. Alexander, who was jailed for three years on suspicion of the 2013 murder of his 94-year-old neighbor. (In addition, Jason Parker is named as a defendant).

The murder charges were dropped in August 2016 for lack of evidence. In his lawsuit, Alexander alleges Yuba City and the county violated his rights, and he was tricked into confessing, though no physical evidence linked him to the crime.

– In March, former Sutter County prosecutor Anu Chopra filed a federal lawsuit against the county, alleging a hostile work environment, discrimination, retaliation and failure to prevent discrimination.

District Attorney Amanda Hopper and Parker were both mentioned throughout the 28-page lawsuit, but they were not named as defendants.