Promotion of District Attorney’s Girlfriend Hurts Prosecutor’s Office Morale

(August 10)  District attorney Mike Ramos’s promotion of the woman his employees refer to as his live-in girlfriend to the position of chief deputy district attorney effective next month has had a deleterious impact on office morale, members of the prosecutor’s office have told the Sentinel.
A few months ago, according to prosecutors, Mike Ramos left his wife, Gretchen, and took up with deputy district attorney Mary Ashley.
Ashley, who has also gone by the name of Mary Frances Ashley-Martinez, was hired as a deputy prosecutor under former district attorney Dennis Stout in 1998. In 2004, Ashley was assigned to head the Victorville office of the district attorney’s newly-formed Family Violence Unit. She remained in that capacity until 2007. Ashley has served as a supervising deputy district attorney since 2007 in the district attorney’s office’s San Bernardino juvenile, Victorville juvenile and Joshua Tree offices.
Over the last year, as the retirement of assistant district attorney Dennis Christy was being anticipated, a commitment was made to promote Gary Roth, currently serving in Victorville as the chief deputy district attorney in the county’s desert division, to assistant district attorney. In turn, it was widely expected throughout the office that supervising deputy district attorney Richard Young, now overseeing the Fontana prosecutor’s division, would be tapped to succeed Roth. Young in recent years has been entrusted with several top-tier and high profile prosecutorial assignments, including murder and manslaughter cases, the review of officer involved shootings and delicate matters such as those involving trafficking in child pornography and accusations that a teacher had employed sexual battery perpetrated by some of his students against other students as a classroom disciplinary tool. Moreover, Young had cultivated what appeared to be a strong professional relationship with Ramos by supporting him politically in years past and endorsing other politicians with whom Ramos was aligned.
On July 18, however, Young had the rug yanked out from under him when Ramos, in an interoffice memo to all district attorney’s staff, announced that Ashley was being promoted to the position of chief deputy district attorney, effective September 6.
“Mary will be replacing Gary Roth as the chief deputy district attorney in the desert division,” the memo states. “Please join me in welcoming Mary Ashley as our new chief deputy district attorney.”
Members of the district attorney’s office drew an immediate connection between Ashley’s promotion and her relationship with Ramos, which was exposed earlier this year, members of the department say, when Ashley sent a cellular phone text message to another member of the office, deputy district attorney Suzanne Patton, telling her that Ramos was at her residence. Word of Ramos’s liaison with Ashley leaked out from there, spreading to numerous other members of the district attorney’s office, as well as at least two county judges.
Efforts to reach Ramos and Ashley for confirmation of the reports were channeled to district attorney’s spokesman Christopher Lee, who told the Sentinel, “This is one of those things where you are crossing the line. I am not going to comment on the personal life of the district attorney. I am not naïve. I know what is going on. I am not going to trash the district attorney, who I have the utmost respect for.”
To the question about whether the perception of Ramos’s favoritism toward Ashley was damaging office morale, Lee said, “I am insulted by this inquiry. To be honest with you, it is nonsense.”
Members of the prosecutor’s office said Ashley was a qualified and competent attorney who has done admirable work in prosecuting sexual crimes against children as well as crimes involving violence against women and children, and that she had more recently taken on evaluations of officer involved shootings. Nevertheless, most opined that she lacked the depth and breadth of office experience that Young and some of their other colleagues, deputy district attorney Denise Trager Dvorak among them,  possessed. Some suggested Ramos’s choice of Ashley to succeed Roth undercut  the esprit de corps and ethos of merit that the district attorney’s office should maintain.
Two even suggested that Ramos may have put the county, himself and the office at risk by his promotion of Ashley. One referenced a lawsuit, Edna Miller et al v. Department of Corrections, which resulted in a precedent setting ruling by the California Supreme Court relating to favoritism to a governmental employee based on a relationship with her boss.
In Miller v. Department of Corrections, two former employees of the Valley State Prison for Women, Edna Miller and Frances Mackey, claimed that the warden of the prison at which they were employed accorded unwarranted favorable treatment to numerous female employees with whom the warden was having sexual affairs and that such conduct constituted sexual harassment in violation of the California Fair Employment and Housing Act.  The California Supreme Court ruled that employees passed over as Miller and Mackey were had grounds to sue the state and the Department of Corrections for both income lost and punitive damages.

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