Alkire kicks off campaign for Nevada County DA
Cliff Newell’s response
”Mr. Alkire is certainly entitled to his opinion, but he is wrong. Our record speaks for itself. We continue to effectively prosecute crime, notwithstanding dramatic cuts in resources from the state and locally.
“We have a solid conviction rate that has helped keep Nevada County one of the safest communities in the state, and, proudly, kept within my budget every year. I restructured the office to meet the increased demands and my Assistant DA, Anna Ferguson, has done a good job of implementing my policy. ln doing so, we have made demands that all employees work to their full potential; most do but some may be resentful for being held to that standard. Public safety is not a popularity contest but a serious and tough business, not to be taken lightly. Not everyone appreciates that.
“My opponent’s concern with rumors is valid, and I categorically deny starting them but freely admit them being a topic of concern and conversation for me in how, if true, it would change the landscape of public safety in Nevada County. The accusation is sophomoric. And, by the way, I am friends with, and very much like, the district attorney of Humboldt County.
“However, these are not the issues Nevada County faces in the upcoming years: An issue is that we are again faced with potential reductions to our budgets to control demands on the county’s General Fund. An issue is dealing with the dramatic changes forced on the local law enforcement by the state’s “realignment” efforts, which have and will continue to present challenges to our community’s safety. An issue is continuing to fight against substance abuse in our community, especially with our youth. We face serious issues in the coming year, and my experience and record continue to make me the most qualified person to lead us in addressing them.”
Attorney David Alkire officially kicked off his campaign for Nevada County District Attorney Sunday by announcing that he has been endorsed by the bargaining unit that represents all of the county’s deputy district attorneys and deputy public defenders.
“They chose to endorse my candidacy over their own boss,” Alkire told a group of supporters at the home of his campaign manager, Joey Jordan. “Frankly, it’s a sad commentary.”
Jordan said she chose to become involved with Alkire’s campaign because “it’s incredibly important to me that we have a functional DA’s office … that doesn’t use victims as props.”
In his statements to the potential campaign supporters and in an interview with The Union, Alkire stressed a platform of restoring “personal integrity and professionalism to the leadership” of the DA’s office.
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“You need someone in charge who’s capable of mentoring, teaching, training and getting the best out of people,” he said of his opponent, incumbent Cliff Newell. “No one in the leadership (now) is capable of doing that.”
Alkire touted more than 30 years of experience in private practice as defense counsel, as well as more than 10 years of experience as a deputy district attorney in Los Angeles and Monterey counties, saying, “I have substantial trial experience, including murder, rape, gang shootings. The incumbent never tried a serious or violent felony — ever.
“Sometimes a person can grow into a job for which he was not qualified for in the first place,” he continued. “That did not happen here.”
Alkire said he had been approached to run several years ago and had declined, but started thinking of making a run about a year ago.
“How many reasons do you need to replace an incumbent?” he said. “I think the people of Nevada County are entitled to be able to trust their DA. It’s time to restore that trust.
“Ordinarily, you’d expect an incumbent to run on his record,” Alkire added. “This incumbent will have to run away from his record. He’d been in office for seven years. If he was going to do things right, we’d know it by now.”
Alkire pointed to what he calls serious dysfunction within the DA’s office, much of which has been centered around Assistant District Attorney Anna Ferguson — who just announced her own run for a judicial seat.
“The assistant district attorney serves at the pleasure of the DA,” Alkire explained. “It is the only at-will position in the office.”
Two separate petitions asking for Ferguson’s ouster have circulated since 2010, Alkire said, adding that her relationship with staff and with law enforcement has become “toxic.”
Ferguson declined to comment on Alkire’s statements.
“The fact is, in a small office, you need to be able to get the most out of people, and the loss of some positions puts even more of a burden on staff,” Alkire said. “The most experienced deputies are now gone. More than 100 years of experience walked out the door in 2011.”
Alkire acknowledges that his real battle will come in convincing the voters that these issues matter.
“The bottom line is, most people in the county don’t follow these issues and don’t know about the dysfunction in the DA’s office,” he said. “But this is a small county. My suggestion to voters is to talk to people you know who work in the courthouse, who they plan to vote for and why.”
Alkire accuses Newell of circulating rumors about what he would do if elected. (For Newell’s response, see box). “As part of the roll-up to this campaign, false statements are being put out there,” Alkire said. “The tactic doesn’t surprise me, considering the source.”
According to Alkire and others involved in his campaign, a rumor has been circulated, particularly in law enforcement, that he would hire local attorney Stephen Munkelt — who might be best known for his defense work involving medical marijuana — as assistant district attorney.
Alkire was quick to stress that, at present, he has no one in mind for the ADA slot.
“It’s so laughably groundless that I just don’t know what to say,” he said. “The second rumor is one I haven’t been able to verify (as to source), that I would be the Humboldt County DA, suggesting that because I have been doing defense work that I wouldn’t be a vigorous prosecutor.”
In preparation for his candidacy, Alkire said he has been participating in ride-alongs with local enforcement and going over the office’s budget with county CEO Rick Haffey and Treasurer-Tax Collector Tina Vernon.
Alkire told his supporters that the DA’s office budget has shrunk in recent years, pointing the finger at Newell for his inability to extract more money from the board of supervisors.
“You need credibility to get new positions (funded),” Alkire said.
To contact City Editor Liz Kellar, email email@example.com or call 530-477-4229.
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