D.A. Demotes Chief Deputy in Shake-Up
Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Ira Reiner announced a major management reorganization Wednesday, highlighted by the appointment of a new chief deputy that left the demoted incumbent stunned and considering resignation.
Gilbert I. Garcetti, a 20-year veteran in the district attorney’s office, said the appointment of Gregory Thompson, now Reiner’s special assistant, as his replacement on Oct. 3 had come as a total surprise.
Garcetti had been instrumental in marshaling support for Reiner’s successful 1984 campaign against incumbent Robert H. Philibosian, who succeeded now-Atty. Gen. John K. Van de Kamp.
In a press statement issued Wednesday afternoon, Reiner praised Garcetti and said he is being transferred to head up the Santa Monica branch office. But Garcetti, 46, hinted that he may simply resign. He said Reiner granted his request to go to Santa Monica only after Reiner presented him with the demotion as a fait accompli.
“Yeah, it’s a possibility,” he said when asked late Wednesday whether he might leave the prosecutor’s office.
Rumors of an impending shake-up by Reiner began with his reelection to a four-year term in June, and they have intensified in recent weeks at the downtown Criminal Courts Building, headquarters of the district attorney’s office.
Among the speculation was that Garcetti might be reassigned. But only a few weeks ago, in a hallway conversation with a reporter, Garcetti had said he would be “shocked” if he were to be replaced. Wednesday, a chastened Garcetti said that when Reiner told him of his demotion: “I was indeed stunned and shocked.” Garcetti said that, despite the earlier rumors, “I hadn’t seen any warning signals at all.”
Reiner did not make himself available to the news media on Wednesday. The announcement of Thompson’s appointment, Garcetti’s demotion and several other changes in key department heads was made in a one-page listing distributed by Reiner’s press officers.
Thompson, a personable 41-year-old Michigan native, has been Reiner’s special assistant since 1986. He is highly regarded and well liked by many prosecutors.
Thompson also has extensive experience in Sacramento, where he and Reiner first met. At the time, Thompson was executive director of the California District Attorneys Assn. and the two worked together to lobby bills through the Legislature.
Reiner’s reelection led to widespread speculation that he might seek a higher office, perhaps that of state attorney general. But Thompson said Wednesday that his appointment has “no connection” to Reiner’s ambitions. “It’s not my job to get him there,” Thompson said, referring to the attorney general’s office.
Reiner has been criticized in his first term for the unsuccessful prosecution of the Twilight Zone cases and its investigation of former Rep. Bobbi Fiedler. Garcetti, as the office’s top manager, received some of the blame as well.
But Reiner’s press statement credited Garcetti with many accomplishments, among them the management of “the largest caseload increase in the history of this office” and the “highest conviction rate ever recorded by the Superior Court.”
The statement added, “In short, Gil (Garcetti) has done a superlative job for me, the office and the community,” saying that Reiner’s decision “to make a change . . . should in no way diminish or detract from his remarkable accomplishments.”
Garcetti, speaking slowly and with emotion, said: “I know what I’ve done for him (Reiner). I know what I’ve done for this office. And I stand by those accomplishments.”
Thompson lives in San Gabriel with his wife and two daughters. He is a graduate of Biola College in La Mirada and earned his law degree in 1973 from McGeorge School of Law in Sacramento.
Thompson was a prosecutor in Sacramento County and had become chief deputy when he replaced Steve White as head of the district attorneys’ association after White went to work for Van de Kamp as an assistant attorney general.
In the other realignments, newly named to be director of branch and area operations was Richard Hecht, who will supervise the office’s branches in Pasadena, San Fernando, Van Nuys, Long Beach, Compton, Torrance and Santa Monica.
Hecht will be replaced as director of central operations by John Lynch, now head deputy in the environmental crimes unit. Lynch’s two assistants are to be Peter Bozanich, now in charge of the Whittier office, and Audrey Collins, head deputy in the Torrance branch office.
Hecht’s assistants are to be Stephen Kay and Larry Trapp. Kay is now assistant director of central operations, and Trapp is already an assistant in branch and area operations.
Curt Livesay, the No. 3 in the district attorney’s office, will remain in that post, Reiner said.