Automated phone calls to potential voters and a newspaper advertisement over the weekend moved the race for Stanislaus County district attorney into the final stretch before the June 3 election.
Two-term incumbent Birgit Fladager is facing off against a longtime critic of the District Attorney’s Office, defense attorney Frank Carson.
Saturday, Carson’s campaign made about 31,000 “robocalls” to voters. The automated calls focused on Carson’s criticism of wiretaps by Fladager’s office that have produced no convictions.
Fladager calls the wiretaps an effective tool to investigate homicides, criminal gang activity and major drug trafficking. She said less serious criminal activity doesn’t meet the criteria needed to obtain a wiretapping order, which can be approved only by a judge.
“So you don’t have DAs running around wiretapping just anyone,” Fladager said Monday. “That does not happen. That cannot happen.”
Carson has pointed to 25 wiretap orders Fladager’s investigators obtained in 2012. He said Monday that those wiretaps cost Fladager’s office nearly $270,000, which he called an expensive waste of time.
Fladager said the 2012 wiretaps have resulted in five homicide cases with 12 defendants, who are being prosecuted. She said the wiretaps also resulted in two major drug trafficking cases; one is being prosecuted in federal court and the other in Merced Superior Court.
Sunday, a half-page advertisement supporting Fladager’s re-election appeared in The Modesto Bee. The ad was paid for by “Prosecutors, Investigators and Staff who Support Fladager.”
For the ad, a few dozen of Fladager’s employees were photographed in front of the courthouse’s I Street entrance. The group wanted to show its support for Fladager in response to Carson’s claim that Fladager’s management style has produced a dysfunctional office.
“She has the integrity to do this job, and we back her,” Deputy District Attorney Marlisa Ferreira said about the newspaper ad.
Carson said some of Fladager’s prosecutors and staff secretly have pledged their support for his candidacy because her management style relies on fear and intimidation. He said the employees must have been under tremendous pressure to participate in the ad, and there are some who chose not to be photographed.
“It’s a terrible position to put the staff in,” Carson said about the ad. “I think it’s very awkward. How do you say no to a boss?”
But Ferreira said Fladager did not participate in the ad. She said the idea for the ad came from a group of prosecutors tired of Carson’s “unfounded” claims. The prosecutors then invited other employees to join them in the ad.
While management staff appeared in the ad, Ferreira said none of the managers helped bring the group together for the photo. She said nobody was pressured into participating.
Carson questioned whether the employees were photographed during their work time, which he says could be considered theft.
Ferreira said the group was photographed shortly after noon during the employees’ lunchtime on April 28. She said some employees, such as herself, couldn’t make it. So 79 names of those who endorsed the ad appeared underneath the photo.
An asterisk appeared next to each name of someone who was not pictured in the photo. Ferreira said about those who endorsed the ad but didn’t appear in the photo: “They do support her and are very adamant about supporting her.”