District Attorney Birgit Fladager will have competition in 2018 election

Patrick Kolasinski. candidate for district attorney in 2018 election.
Patrick Kolasinski. candidate for district attorney in 2018 election. Carolyn Huff Photography 2016

A Modesto attorney whose primary practice is immigration law and criminal defense will challenge District Attorney Birgit Fladager in the 2018 election.

Attorney Patrick Kolasinski filed the initial papers March 31 with the Stanislaus County Registrar of Voters’ office.

“I have been watching the management side fall apart and watching prosecutors resign in frustration,” Kolasinski said Thursday. “I am the right person to do this.”

The attorney is making another run for public office after a lopsided defeat in the Yosemite Community College District election in November. Leslie Beggs captured slightly more than 80 percent of the vote in defeating Kolasinski.

Fladager, who’s had a contentious third term as district attorney, said she will “absolutely” ask Stanislaus County voters for a fourth term next year.

“I very much enjoy the job,” Fladager said. “We have a great office. We have been able to make tremendous strides in bringing the office into the modern age.”

Kolasinski hasn’t wasted time in leveling criticism against Fladager on a campaign website. He claims the DA’s office is mismanaged and loses too many prosecutors to other employers.

There is no accounting of the staff time spent on court cases and the total cost of cases, Kolasinski said. The challenger proposes to track the time of district attorney employees, including investigators and prosecutors, at least to provide cost accounting for certain types of prosecutions.

According to his website, better accounting would offer a clearer picture of how to allocate the office’s limited resources to protect the community.

In December, the judge in the Korey Kauffman murder case lambasted the DA’s office for serious shortcomings in sharing evidence in the discovery process, creating an opening for anyone who runs against Fladager next year. Judge Barbara Zuniga said she had never seen a district attorney’s office make so many mistakes in discovery.

Kolasinski said it’s unacceptable the office lacks a system for tracking the volumes of evidence gathered in criminal investigations.

Fladager disagreed, saying, “He does not know much about our office.” She said the DA’s office has been converting to a paperless system and has been providing discovery to defense attorneys electronically.

A significant step forward in the computer system upgrade will be completed in the summer, Fladager said.

The district attorney was challenged by Frank Carson, a leading defense attorney who’s a defendant in the Kauffman case, in a bitterly contested campaign in 2014. Carson assailed the incumbent for approving what he claimed were excessive wiretaps for criminal investigations.

Some 14 months after the election, Carson and eight others were arrested in August 2015 and charged in connection with the 2012 death of Kauffman, a Turlock resident. A lengthy preliminary hearing ended this month with Carson and co-defendants Baljit Atwal and Daljit Atwal bound for trial on charges of murder and conspiracy to obstruct justice.

Fladager oversees an office with an $18.7 million budget last year and 120 employees. She acknowledged there has been turnover among prosecutors but said that is common for district attorney offices.

“We have been through a tremendous economic hardship as a result of the downturn and county fiscal impacts,” Fladager said. “We have lost folks to larger counties because they pay more.”

The office has hired additional staffing as part of a county budget program to restore public safety, she said.

“I am looking forward to running for a fourth term,” Fladager said. “I will address any issues as they arise and look forward to being elected for a fourth term and serving the citizens of this county.”

Ken Carlson: 209-578-2321