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Joyce Dudley at a press conference following the firing of Josh Lynn, June 16, 2010

Paul Wellman

Joyce Dudley at a press conference following the firing of Josh Lynn, June 16, 2010


Anatomy of the Prosecutor’s Firing

Principals Remain Mum on Lynn’s Forced Departure


Was it Inevitable?: For years, the Ladies Home Journal carried a popular feature called “Can This Marriage Be Saved?” Usually, the answer seemed to be: “Maybe, with luck.”

The talk of the town this week was: How come the District Attorney’s prosecutor Josh Lynn got fired a week after losing the election?

But the overriding question is whether his canning could have been avoided.

Answer: Maybe, depending on what little’s known about the motivation of acting DA Ann Bramsen, who fired Lynn, and prosecutor Joyce Dudley, who won the June 8 election and who will be sworn into office as DA next Tuesday, June 22.

Both Bramsen and Dudley are mum on the reasons behind the firing, citing personnel privacy. But it also seems likely that they have no wish to give Lynn ammunition in case he sues the county for wrongful termination.

Backtracking to last week after the election which Dudley won by 6,500 votes, Lynn had reason to fear being fired.

It was not only a nasty campaign but Dudley was furious about Lynn accusing her of accepting a guilty plea in a drunk driving fatality case instead of going to trial. The driver will still spend many years in prison. But Lynn accused Dudley of settling the case so she could be free to campaign.

Dudley was outraged. Lynn refused to retract the accusation although he had no evidence that she dealt the case to give her time to campaign. During the campaign Dudley refused to say that she absolutely, positively wouldn’t fire Lynn.

So what if —? Suppose Lynn had kept his cool over the weekend and let matters take their course, as a professional, instead of popping off? Suppose that one-day-off wasn’t imposed and let two adults say their good-mornings on Monday?

After the election, both were on vacation, due to return to the office this Monday morning. Dudley was already moving some things in to her new office, which was right next to his. Last Friday, acting DA Bramsen asked Lynn to take Monday off, with pay. The reason, she explained in a press release this Tuesday, was “to ensure a smooth transition.” It was not a suspension, but “simply” to review the office organization and maintain “harmonious” working relations.”

With no love lost between the pair fighting for the job, it’s easy to see that what she also might have had in mind was to avoid some kind of awkward meeting between the pair on Day One. Noblesse oblige, you might say. “I also wanted to take a day and figure out where he stood, define his role and responsibilities in this whole office,” she said, according to Independent reporter Chris Meagher.

Whatever, it backfired with a bang. Lynn, already expecting the worst, apparently saw the administrative leave day as a prelude to getting sacked. With the news media asking for comments, he exploded with a series of nasty remarks aimed at Dudley and Bramsen, including accusing Dudley of “hiding behind Bramsen.”

But what apparently was a major aspect triggering the firing was an e-mail Lynn reportedly sent to everyone in DA’s office, apparently making personal comments about employees. So far the e-mail hasn’t surfaced publicly. At a press conference Wednesday, Dudley said she’d seen it but declined to release it.

In a release Tuesday announcing Lynn’s firing, Bramsen said after the deputy got the administrative leave notice he “twisted it in an inappropriate way that is negatively affecting the office.”

In many or most organizations, you get fired or at least severely disciplined for these sort of things. What else might have occurred isn’t known. On Tuesday afternoon, Bramsen gave him the ax. But could all this have been avoided, with Lynn back on the job today?

Maybe. Dudley says the firing had nothing to do with anything that happened during the campaign, and the decision was Bramsen’s not hers. Just things after the one-day leave was issued Friday, she said.

So what if —? Suppose Lynn had kept his cool over the weekend and let matters take their course, as a professional, instead of popping off? Suppose that one-day-off wasn’t imposed and let two adults say their good-mornings on Monday? Suppose Dudley or Bramsen had no intention of firing him? It’s doubtful that Dudley would have wanted him as a management partner on her team, but he was a highly regarded prosecutor and could have played a key role there if he’d wanted to stay.

He has many friends among other deputies and ideally, could have swallowed his pride and settled back in.

At Wednesday’s press conference, I asked Dudley if she had planned to demote him. “I planned to meet with him,” she replied. That never happened. If it had, the “marriage,” so to speak, might have been saved. Again, maybe.

We may never know, since Bramsen and Dudley refused to get into personnel matters. The public, meanwhile, is confused and many people are taking Lynn’s side, not knowing the background that only Dudley, Bramsen, the county counsel and perhaps a few others know. We aren’t mind-readers.

Whether Lynn plans to take a job with attorney Barry Cappello — which seems like a possible scenario — and/or to sue, remains to be seen.

Lynn is angry. Dudley, she told me at her conference Tuesday, is “sad,” both for herself and the community.

Could this tragedy have been averted? We’ll never know for sure unless and until the principals speak out.

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Barney Brantingham can be reached at barney@independent.com or 805-965-5205. He writes online columns throughout the week and a print column on Thursdays.

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