Bonuses for Simpson Case Prosecutors Anger Peers : Courts: Garcetti says case’s unusual pressures and demands justify extra pay. But some colleagues say they get nothing more for tough assignments and may file a grievance.
Dist. Atty. Gil Garcetti’s decision to award nearly $43,000 in bonuses to the lead prosecutors in the O.J. Simpson case has whipped up a storm of criticism from others on Garcetti’s staff, some of whom are demanding similar compensation for anyone who works long, difficult hours on a case.
So angry are some staff members about the 11% temporary pay raises given to Deputy Dist. Attys. William Hodgman, Marcia Clark and Christopher A. Darden that a group of them is considering filing a grievance.
Others are insisting that Clark and Darden reimburse about $350 in fines their colleagues paid for them during the Simpson trial when they were cited for violating court rules.
“I am beyond upset,” said veteran Deputy Dist. Atty. Lea P. D’Agostino. “And so is everyone else to whom I’ve spoken. I’ve never seen such a totality of anger. If the office wants to do this, fine, but do it for everyone. What are the other deputies in this office, chopped liver?”
Responded Garcetti: “This goes beyond working hard, way beyond it. The fact that [Clark, Darden and Hodgman] made 11% more is not going to pay for the sacrifices they made, not just for themselves and their families, but for the people of this county.”
The bonuses were not widely known until last week, when leaders of the countywide Assn. of Deputy District Attorneys confronted one of Garcetti’s aides about them, the group’s president, Herb Lapin, said Wednesday.
Eventually, the association learned that Clark was retroactively awarded an extra $14,330 for the 16-month case (her annual salary is $96,828). Hodgman, an administrator who coordinated the Simpson prosecution, was paid $17,760 above his $120,000 annual salary. Darden, who earns the same as Clark but who did not join the Simpson prosecution team until three months after she did, received an extra $10,750. Darden has also reportedly landed a $1.3-million contract to write a book about the trial, which ended last month in Simpson’s acquittal.
Chief Deputy Dist. Atty. Sandra Buttitta disclosed Wednesday that a fourth prosecutor, Norman Shapiro, who has since been appointed a Superior Court judge, was given a temporary 8% pay raise because he took on Hodgman’s regular administrative duties during the Simpson case.
Clark, Darden and Hodgman are currently on leave as a result of racking up hundreds of hours of overtime that they were allowed to take as time off from work. Compensatory time, all but 144 hours of which each staff member must use before the end of the year, also was given to all other members of the Simpson prosecution team, including law clerks.
Clark and Darden, both of whom signed with a talent agency after the trial ended Oct. 3, have not said when or if they will return to their jobs.
Hodgman is expected to be back at his desk as early as next week.
Prosecutors association president Lapin said it is highly unusual for prosecutors to receive extra pay for doing their jobs. Even compensatory time is anything but routine, he said.
“There are prosecutors all over this county who right now are working tremendously long hours and they are not getting anything extra for it,” said Lapin, who accused Garcetti of allowing the additional pay without obtaining approval from the Board of Supervisors.
Buttitta said the bonuses were approved by the County Administrative Office and did not require the approval of supervisors.
Garcetti defended the bonuses Wednesday at his monthly meeting with reporters, citing the unusual pressures and demands of the Simpson case.
He noted, for example, that Clark had to suffer the embarrassment of seeing pictures of herself bare-breasted on a nude beach in Europe taken years ago and sold to a tabloid by one of her former husbands. He also cited the continued “harassment” of the Simpson prosecutors by the media.
Lapin, who is scheduled to meet today with Buttitta to discuss the matter, said the prosecutors group is trying to “put a positive face on this.”
He said the association will ask Garcetti to develop guidelines to determine who gets special compensation and under what circumstances.
In addition, he said, he will pass along to the board of the prosecutors group a demand by some of the organization’s members that the fines the group paid for Clark and Darden from membership dues be returned.
The negative reaction to the bonuses could have been avoided if Garcetti had done it “in an open way and told everybody about it,” Lapin said.
D’Agostino, who is among those who want to file a grievance protesting the bonuses, also criticized Garcetti for not being open about the bonuses until his aides were confronted.
When she was the prosecutor in the high profile “Twilight Zone” case involving the deaths of actors on a movie set, she said, she received “not an hour of overtime” and no additional help on the case, even though it required very long hours.
“Is there an invasion of privacy in high-profile cases? Yes, but that goes with the territory,” D’Agostino said in response to Garcetti’s explanation of why the bonuses were given.
Another deputy district attorney, Pam Bozanich, said her experience was similar to D’Agostino’s during the first trial of the Menendez brothers for the murders of their parents. “I had to type my own notes. My partner and I had to carry boxes of [files] out to Van Nuys,” Bozanich said. “I was not given overtime during the week. The only time we could get overtime was on weekends.
“I resent very much that others were able to profit from the job I did with no extra compensation.”