Photo via Wikimedia Commons.
Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

The former executive of the State Bar sued his former employer Thursday, alleging in a whistleblower complaint he was fired for exposing ethical breaches within the agency responsible for the oversight of the state’s attorneys.

Joseph Dunn, a former state senator from Orange County, filed the lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court He also names as a defendant Craig Holden, who was installed as the new State Bar president in September. Dunn seeks unspecified damages.

A representative of the State Bar could not be immediately reached.

According to the complaint, Dunn was named the State Bar’s executive director in September 2010 and was given a second three-year term last year before his firing last week. He was responsible for sharply reducing the backlog of open complaints with the bar in 2011 after years of criticism about the problem by the Legislature, the suit states.

Dunn also oversaw the move of the State Bar to its current home on Figueroa Street and created a new team to advance the public protection mission of the agency, the suit states.

But Dunn ruffled feathers when he reported that under State Bar Chief Trial Counsel Jayne Kim’s direction, internal reports were altered to remove cases from the statutory backlog, the suit states.

“Ms. Kim then issued false reports to the Regulation Admissions & Discipline Committee of the State Bar, the membership of the State Bar, the Legislature, the governor and the general public,” according to the lawsuit.

Kim’s alleged misconduct was not isolated, but instead “shockingly rampant,” the suit states.

After Kim found out about Dunn’s concerns regarding her performance, she filed a complaint against him to try and preserve her position, the suit states.

Upon receiving Kim’s complaint, the State Bar began an internal investigation of Dunn and others by hiring a law firm with close ties to State Bar Trustee Miriam Krinsky at a possible cost of more than $300,000 even though a retired state Supreme Court justice offered to do the same evaluation for free, the suit states.

Dunn alleges Holden helped persuade the board of trustees to fire him and that Holden’s goal was to assume control over the State Bar’s executive functions. Holden, a partner at Lewis, Brisbois, Bisguard & Smith LLP, has “had difficulties in previous law firms and … submitted irregular expense reports to the State Bar,” the suit states.

Dunn was given notice of his firing Nov. 7 while giving a speech for the State Bar in San Francisco, the suit states.

Four days earlier, he and others employed by the bar submitted an anonymous whistleblower complaint to the agency’s board of trustees outlining their concerns, the suit states.

“To date, Dunn has not been afforded any opportunity to respond to the unilateral notice of his termination or any of the allegations that may have been made against him,” the suit states.

City News Service

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