Orange County prosecutors will let a judge decide if former Irvine City Councilman C. David Baker violated terms of his forgery sentence last fall when he accepted use of a 1989 Cadillac and negotiated a $120,000-a-year job while doing court-ordered community service for a local youth organization.
Deputy Dist. Atty. Christopher J. Evans announced Wednesday that he has completed a review of the Baker matter and has forwarded information to Orange County Superior Court Judge Myron S. Brown, who sentenced Baker last November.
"Basically, we believe we are not the appropriate agency to handle that matter at this time," Evans said. He added that the manner in which Baker performed his community service is better left between the former councilman and the judge.
Evans declined to discuss how his office reviewed the matter, but said that he has sent a letter and some written material to Judge Brown. He declined to release copies, however, saying that he does not consider them to be public records because the matter will still be under review by the judge.
Judge Brown did not return several telephone calls from The Times on Wednesday.
Baker's attorney, Paul S. Meyer of Costa Mesa, dismissed the matter as a controversy generated by an article--based on "unsubstantiated rumors"--in the Times Orange County Edition last month.
"It was much to-do about nothing," Meyer said. He said prosecutors reviewed his client's community service and found nothing improper.
Times Orange County Edition Editor Narda Zacchino said of the Baker article: "It was a legitimate story and we stand by it."
Baker had been the early favorite last summer in the congressional race to replace retiring Rep. Robert E. Badham (R-Newport Beach). But in the closing days of the GOP primary his campaign ran short of cash. Baker, then executive director of the Irvine Health Foundation, made out a $48,000 check from that organization to himself and signed it with the forged signature of another foundation officer. That officer, David G. Sills, is also a Superior Court judge.
Baker stopped payment on the check shortly thereafter, and the forgery was not discovered until after the June primary election, which Baker narrowly lost.
The district attorney ultimately charged Baker with a felony. Baker pleaded guilty and Judge Brown reduced the charge to a misdemeanor, sentencing him to a one-year jail term--which was suspended--plus a year of probation, on the condition that he perform 500 hours of community service.
The Times reported that Sports Kids, a nonprofit organization founded by Olympian Bob Mathias, was withholding $80,000 owed to him because officials feared that payment might violate the terms of his sentencing. Baker, a 36-year-old lawyer, performed a portion of his community service raising money and doing legal tasks for Sports Kids.
Executive Director Chuck Foster also acknowledged that Baker had been given use of a Cadillac and had negotiated a full-time job, although Baker left the group in April.
The article also reported that Baker and his father had loaned $20,000 to the Irvine-based organization at about the same time Baker was starting his community service. The $80,000 represents repayment of the loan, plus salary owed to Baker, Foster said.
Evans was quoted in the story as saying that he intended to investigate the circumstances.
Evans said Wednesday that his office "evaluated the information from the Times, and information we received from (Baker's attorney, Paul) Meyer and others and concluded that it is a matter between Judge Brown and the probationer (Baker)."