Municipal Court Administrator William Hartford, the subject of a criminal investigation by the San Diego County district attorney's office, abruptly resigned his $55,000-a-year job on Thursday.
The investigation was requested by the 10 municipal judges in Vista because of their concern about Hartford's management of the court, the presiding judge said Thursday.
Hartford insisted that his decision to leave the job was the result of "personal differences with members of the bench" in the North County Municipal Judicial District, and had "nothing to do with the D.A.'s thing."
Hartford, however, said he did not realize the investigation was requested by the judges themselves. "Just last spring, the judges said, 'Bill, you're a hell of a guy. You're doing a great job.' They voted me a raise," he said.
Hartford said he did not feel affronted that the judges themselves asked for the probe, saying, "They are responsible for the court. I think that (asking for an investigation) is routine."
Presiding Municipal Judge Victor E. Ramirez said Thursday that the investigation, being conducted by the district attorney's special operations unit, was requested by the judges acting on a "business decision."
"It is the responsibility of the judiciary, above all groups of people, to make sure their affairs are being operated to the highest degree of integrity and honesty," Ramirez said.
Ramirez would not elaborate on the focus of the investigation except to say it was not connected with past accusations of sexual harassment or favoritism in the court administrator's office. Those accusations, Ramirez said, were formally aired before grievance boards and dismissed as unsubstantiated.
Ramirez said the judges did not ask Hartford to resign.
Hartford said he asked for a financial audit of his office about a week ago--when he began thinking about resigning from the post he has held for 11 years.
"I've had some real personal differences with some members of the bench," Hartford said. "After a while, you finally get to that point. When you work with a mix of 10 judges, you'll have some personality differences."
Hartford handed over his typed, one-sentence resignation letter to Ramirez at 2 p.m. As court administrator and chief clerk, Hartford, 40, supervised the work of 93 people and administered a $3.2-million annual budget.