Paul Walters
Paul Walters. Image from his LinkedIn page

Paul Walters was appointed Friday as chief of the Orange County District Attorney‘s Bureau of Investigation, which has been rocked by claims of sexual harassment, favoritism and fear of retaliation for whisteblowing.

“I’m totally excited about taking the position,” Walters told City News Service. “I’ve worked with the DA’s office my whole career. I know a tremendous amount of people over there. I’m just thrilled to be part of that organization. I’m really looking forward to it.”

The previous chief, Craig Hunter, was placed on leave earlier this year, prompting him to file a claim with the county May 5 alleging Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas has been selectively choosing public corruption cases, letting police allies off the hook while pursuing cases against political foes.

Hunter also accused Rackauckas’ Chief of Staff Susan Kang Schroeder of doing personal work for a side-business of music promotion while on county time as well as gathering nomination signatures for her boss’ re-election in his office.

Hunter has not filed a lawsuit, his attorney Bradley Gage said. A claim is a necessary precursor to a lawsuit against a governmental agency. It was not clear if the claim has been rejected.

Rackauckas in April also placed assistant chief Louis Gutierrez on leave. He said then he would conduct a national search for a new chief of the Bureau of Investigation.

Investigators Tom Conklin and Abraham Santos also filed claims against the county alleging they were also “whistleblowers” who were being subjected to unfair discipline at work.

In June, an Orange County grand jury report said there was a perception among many investigators in the District Attorney’s Office that the bureau is plagued with sexual harassment and favoritism.

Walters said was receiving a steady stream of messages from well-wishers since the news was announced.

“Sheriffs and DAs are calling me and congratulating me,” Walters said.

Ron Seman, who was heading the bureau when Hunter was placed on leave, was named Assistant Chief for the bureau.

Walters was chief of the Santa Ana Police Department from 1988 to 2012 and Santa Ana’s city manager from 2011 to 2013. He was instrumental in moving the city’s fire department to join the Orange County Fire Authority, which saved the debt-ridden city at the time millions of dollars.

— City News Service

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