DA candidates emphasize justice, professionalism
by Heather Muller , 5/30/2006
District attorney candidates Paul Gallegos and Worth Dikeman spent some time with The Eureka Reporter over the holiday weekend, answering questions about the campaign, the Cheri Moore investigation — and ‘The Simpsons.’ The following reports are excerpts from those interviews.
District Attorney Paul Gallegos, 43
Married 16 years, with three children, ages 4, 7 and 9
Law degree from the University of La Verne in 1991
Born in Arlington, Va., a Humboldt County resident for the past 12 years
ER: How do you think the campaign is going so far?
PG: I think it’s going pretty well. It’s always tough, because I’ve got an office to run in addition to the campaign, and that’s my first priority. This is my third campaign in four years, so you get used to doing more than one job at a time.
ER: Both you and Dikeman have had to field some tough questions along the way. What is your opinion of his remarks about Native American jurors in 1992?
PG: When you’re a prosecutor you represent an entire community, and everyone in that community. You also represent the legal system, which means you’re supposed to want the defendant to get a fair jury, and not just a jury that may do what you want it to do.
ER: Do you think Dikeman has a problem with Native Americans?
PG: If I found out that someone on my staff was trying to exclude a race of people from the jury process just because of their race, they would definitely have some explaining to do to me, and it would definitely take me some bit of time to cool down before I came up with an appropriate response to that conduct.
ER: You’ve been accused of mismanaging the Child Abuse Services Team. What is your response to that?
PG: Absolutely false. CAST functions better and more efficiently than it ever has. People who are criticizing it no longer work with the CAST team. The primary critic is the only person who was fired by me unrelated to the budget. We have made it function less expensively and more effectively. I’ve assigned my best prosecutor to CAST, Maggie Fleming. The people that I have there are a reflection of my commitment to making sure our children are well protected.
ER: Local law enforcement associations have unanimously backed Dikeman’s campaign. You’ve said that you don’t want these endorsements, but the fact that you didn’t get them raises a larger question about your relationship with law enforcement agencies that resonates beyond the campaign. How would you characterize that relationship?
PG: My responsibility is to represent this community. I work with law enforcement, not for law enforcement. I work for the people of Humboldt County. It is essential that I maintain that independence for this community. (Reading from the American Bar Association Standards for Criminal Justice) “Prosecutors should take care to avoid any relationships with the police that might cast doubt on the independence and integrity of the office of the prosecutor.”
ER: Do you think Dikeman has failed on this score?
PG: Measurably, but that’s because he doesn’t understand, and unfortunately neither do they. My role as a check on the potential abuses of law enforcement is the most important role a DA plays. When that relationship is too close, the community loses confidence that there’s any check whatsoever.
ER: Right around the time Dikeman was announcing his support by these associations, Cheri Moore was shot and killed by officers of the Eureka Police Department. How much of a factor has that become in this campaign?
PG: What it’s become is something that Worth has tried to run with a lot, which is absolutely wrong. Worth is trying to act as legal counsel for an agency that we’re investigating, and at the same time work in my office as a prosecutor. Everyone that knows anything about the law understands they should avoid a conflict of interest. Worth is so deeply involved in a conflict of interest that he can’t even see his way out of it.
ER: In a press conference last week Dikeman accused you of politicizing the Moore homicide investigation, saying that by now you should have either charged or cleared the officers involved. Why have you done neither?
PG: Worth says I’m politicizing it? He’s the one having the press conferences. The only thing I’ve said about the Moore case is that people should give me patience and time. I don’t charge anyone until I have evidence, and I don’t clear people of charges when there’s an ongoing investigation. I wait until I have all the facts to make a decision. I don’t even have the autopsy report. The autopsy report is a very, very important piece of information for many reasons, and it would be wrong for me to make a decision clearing anyone without having all the information.
ER: Do you think you can reach an impartial conclusion in this case, in light of the Eureka Police Officers Association’s public backing of your opponent and the fact that two members of the department are managing his campaign?
ER: Do you think Dikeman can?
PG: They’re two different dynamics, but he’s getting backed for a result.
ER: What result is that?
PG: They want their man in office, someone who will do their bidding.
ER: And that’s not you?
PG: When I sign a complaint, it says the people of the state of California. That’s whose bidding I do.
ER: What is your vision for the office of district attorney?
PG: Making an office that represents the people of this community. And guess who they are? That includes Native Americans. That includes the poor. That includes the mentally ill. That also includes defendants. Our job is to make sure that their rights are respected, but if they’ve done something wrong we’re going to ask for an appropriate consequence.
ER: During the recall campaign, you came across as a sort of surfboard-riding anti-corporate superhero, factors that have not reappeared in this campaign. What’s different about this campaign, and what’s different about you?
PG: Nothing’s different about me, except that I’m older. I’ve learned a lot of things, certainly. My wife’s more beautiful, and the kids are bigger, but the core person is still the same. I think we have a tendency to paint people with a broad brush. I’m just a regular guy doing my job to the best of my ability.
ER: Some observers have commented on the resemblance your opponent bears to a certain nuclear power plant owner on “The Simpsons.”
PG: Mr. Burns. I saw that.
ER: Which “Simpsons” character do you think you most resemble?
PG: Do you want to know the truth? The daughter, Lisa. Wrong gender, but she’s interested in a lot of things. I’ve always been a very self-motivated learner, and I love music and a lot of things. If she could just learn to surfboard and skate, we’d be golden. Or maybe I could be the Scottish janitor. I don’t know.
ER: The current campaign has been characterized by harsh criticisms from both sides. If Dikeman loses the election and goes back to work for you, will there be some awkward moments around the water cooler?
PG: Worth has engaged in such serious misrepresentations that I think it’s fair to say that there are some serious concerns. I think you can have a campaign and be honest, and there would be no problems, but some of the stuff he’s said… . His limitation has been his imagination. He’s done himself a disservice, and I think it’s a shame. But I’ve got to be able to believe people I employ, don’t I?
ER: In a word, a vote for Paul Gallegos is a vote for ____.
Deputy District Attorney Worth Dikeman, 60
Married 26 years, with three children, ages 23, 25 and 33
Law degree in 1976 from University of California Hastings College of the Law
Born in St. Helena, Calif., a resident of Humboldt County for 21 years
ER: There’s about a week left in the campaign. How do you think it’s going so far?
WD: It’s going great. We’re getting lots of volunteers who want to help. We’re getting a lot of contributions. Our bills are paid, and the feedback we’re getting is very positive.
ER: A few issues during the campaign have gotten quite a bit of attention. What’s your take on Gallegos’ handling of the Child Abuse Services Team?
WD: I don’t think he’s done a very good job.
ER: Why not?
WD: When he took over we had a state-of-the-art program with two full-time attorneys. He fired one, and reassigned the other. I don’t think he thinks things through, and I certainly think that’s reflected in CAST.
ER: Another issue had more to do with you. How would you characterize your relationship with Native American voters, particularly in light of the controversial remarks you made about Native American jurors in 1992?
WD: I’d say it’s good. Like I say, I’ve been here 21 years. My relationship with all segments of Humboldt County society is pretty good.
ER: Then there’s Cheri Moore. You’ve referred to her fatal shooting by officers of the Eureka Police Department as a “tragedy.” What is your sense of what went wrong there, and how important do you think Moore’s death has become to this campaign?
WD: It’s always a tragedy when someone dies. I’ve said that Paul has turned this tragedy into a political issue, and he should not be making any decisions or requests about the matter, and the case should go directly to the attorney general’s office.
ER: What about the investigation’s importance to the campaign?
WD: I don’t know. I know that Paul is trying to make it a political issue, and I think that’s unfortunate, because I think he clearly has a conflict, and anything he says or does about the case has its roots in apparent bias.
ER: But you’ve got a conflict, too. You’ve talked at length about receiving the endorsements of numerous law enforcement associations. But with the Eureka Police Department now the subject of scrutiny in the Moore homicide investigation, don’t you think those endorsements cut both ways?
WD: No. Ordinarily that wouldn’t be a problem, any more than it would be a problem for Paul to review the conduct of anyone whose endorsement he sought. Paul has made it a political issue, and he has made the endorsements I’ve received a political issue. And in that situation, I think it gives rise to the appearance of bias on my part, and if I were in a position where I was asked to review the Cheri Moore case, I would refer it to the attorney general’s office.
ER: Both your campaign manager and assistant campaign manager are officers of the Eureka Police Department. Do you think the community could have confidence in the impartiality of any conclusions you, as district attorney, might reach in an investigation involving that department?
WD: Yes. Some of the people who are working on my campaign are involved with police agencies. Their involvement and their commitment is in part due to their dissatisfaction with the job Paul has done. They’re giving of their time and energy, because they want the job done better.
ER: What is your vision for the office of district attorney?
WD: Vision is not a word I would use. Vision sounds a little too much like something you have after you’ve ingested something.
ER: What word would you use?
WD: I’d say goals. I have goals for the office.
ER: Such as?
WD: I want to see the CAST teams fully staffed again. I want to see us have a better working relationship with the rest of the law enforcement community. I want to work with the various communities within Humboldt County to try to identify offenses and offenders that have the greatest impact in those communities. I want to get the office working as a team again. And I want to establish civil service status for the attorneys so we can attract key qualified people without them being afraid of arbitrary termination.
ER: Curious to some observers is that you have not been arbitrarily terminated.
WD: If I were to speculate as to why I would say, 1) there’s the remote possibility that I could file a civil action against Paul, 2) I think it would be politically disadvantageous for him to fire me because it would look like he was firing me for the wrong reason, and 3) I’m a great asset to that office. I don’t call in sick. I do what I’m told. I don’t complain. And I do what I do well. I’d be difficult to replace.
ER: The current campaign has been characterized by harsh criticisms from both sides. Would you be able to go back to work for Gallegos if you lose the election?
WD: The answer is yes, and the reason I say that is because I love my job, and you don’t have to love your boss to love your job. It helps, but it’s not necessary. Humboldt County is my home. This is where my wife is. This is where my house is. This is where we’ve raised our children. If I want to be a prosecutor, and I do, this is the only game in town. Defense attorneys or public defenders can always go into private practice, but there’s not a big market for prosecutors.
ER: Your opponent is arguably the most famous surfing district attorney in the world. Do you surf much?
WD: I do not. But a fellow I graduated from law school with, an attorney down south, was featured on the cover of the newspaper down there surfing.
ER: So you’re saying there might be a more famous surfing DA?
WD: Well, he was a deputy district attorney. And he was famous for surfing, not for hitting a rock.
ER: So how do you spend your time when you’re not prosecuting evildoers or running for DA?
WD: I spend time with my wife. I read, garden, play with the dogs, feed the cats.
ER: No secret passion for bungee jumping or sudoku puzzles?
WD: No. My family is very competitive. They love pinochle.
ER: Do you play?
WD: Oh I do. And they like to ski. I hadn’t done a lot of skiing growing up, but I didn’t want to be left out, so I learned how to ski. I’m not very good at it.
ER: Have you ever hit a rock?
WD: No, but one of their favorite pastimes is watching me fall down. One time I made the mistake of getting up with my skis pointed uphill. So then I skied backwards, much to their delight. I explained that only skiers of remarkable talent can ski backwards.
ER: You’ve made a few jokes yourself about a “Simpsons” character to whom you reportedly bear a striking resemblance. Which character is that?
WD: The Arcata Eye had come out with a drawing of Mr. Burns along with some suggestion that he looked like me. I don’t think I bear any real resemblance to him, but it seems to give some people some satisfaction to think that I do. I think that there are elements of my personality that are probably a little closer to Homer and Bart than to Mr. Burns.
ER: In a word, a vote for Worth Dikeman is a vote for ___.