DA Drama

Deputy District Attorney Rick Storms is running for DA to reform management. “I know it’s hard to believe, but they talk about how bad our office is in San Francisco,” he says.

For a generation, the position of Monterey County District Attorney went unchanged – and uncontested. Dean Flippo was elected as DA in 1990, then never challenged as he became the county’s longest-serving DA, filling seven terms before retiring in 2018.

Flippo endorsed Jeannine Pacioni, then assistant DA, and with no challengers, she was sworn in as Monterey County’s first woman DA in 2019.

Now, as she seeks another four-year term in office, she faces a challenger from within her own ranks: Deputy District Attorney Rick Storms.

Storms says Pacioni’s leadership has created a toxic work environment that is contributing to high turnover, and he pledges to improve working conditions for the 155-person staff.

“I am doing this for all the people in the District Attorney’s Office,” Storms says. “For all of the secretaries, all of the staff. I am going to be a reasonable reformer.”

Pacioni dismisses Storms’ critique as “sour grapes” since she was elected three years ago. “The bottom line is, any time you change leadership, people are going to be unhappy,” she says.

Pacioni’s first term in the job has been consumed by pandemic adaptations, and first on her list of accomplishments is collaborating with colleagues in Monterey County Superior Court, the Public Defender’s Office, Sheriff’s Office and Probation Department to keep the courts open.

“Some counties are shutting down again altogether,” she says. “We have jury trials going right now. We are keeping the wheels of justice turning, so defendants are not just sitting and waiting in jail. That’s because we were able to work together, and that’s because I have strong relationships.”

Pacioni has presided during a rising Black Lives Matter movement and calls for police accountability, and to that end says she’s proud to have changed practice in the office and that she herself visits the scene of every officer-involved shooting. She also created the Monterey County Multicultural Community Council to build trust.

Storms, who has been a deputy DA in Monterey County since 2002, sued the county in 2020, alleging discrimination and retaliation for speaking up.

According to his lawsuit, for years, Storms received accommodations he needed to enable him to work despite a debilitating medical condition. That changed in 2017, he claims, when his supervisor began to mock his condition and accused him of lying about it.

“We are aggressively defending the case,” says County Counsel Les Girard.

Sara Rubin loves long public meetings, red pens and reading (on newsprint). She has been editor of the Monterey County Weekly since 2016, and has been on staff since 2010.

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