Thanks to yesterday’s ruling by Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Mel Red Recana, Marcia Mayeda’s grip on her position as Director of the Los Angeles County Department of Animal
Care and Control (DACC) has never been so tenuous (to see Judge Recana’s ruling please click here:) . Mayeda and her crumbling agency are being sued for their negligent failure to perform mandated duties – that had they done their job would have prevented the fatal mauling of jogger Pamela DeVitt. The ensuing cover-up implicates not only Mayeda – but new evidence points to the blame reaching all the way up to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.
Rather than address the facts of the case, the defendants tried to argue that the statute of limitations had expired for Ms. DeVitt’s family to sue and filed a demurrer – a failed attempt to make the case go away and be swept tidily back under the rug where the County tried to bury it in 2013. The County tried to force the plaintiffs, (Benjamin DeVitt, Pamela’s husband and best friend of forty-two years before he was widowed, their daughter April, a marine biologist, and their son, Tad, a U.S. Army war hero who retired from active duty in June of this year), to pay a $60,500 bond to secure an award of costs and attorney’s fees based on the County’s claims they would win the case if it went to trial.
Judge Recana denied the County’s request for bond and also wrote that based on the facts alleged Devitts’ amended complaint, the County did not have a reasonable probability of prevailing on the merits. Judge Recana correctly sent a strong message that this case will be tried on its legal merits without the bluster and circus that County Counsel historically trots out for DACC-related cases. The DACC’s traditional tactics of deny, delay, obfuscate and causing the maximum financial hardship for any plaintiff brave enough to call them to account do not seem to be sticking this time around.
If it cannot be settled before trial, the DeVitt case is likely to be tried in front of a jury. Defendants – LA County the feckless bureaucrat, Marcia Mayeda, and the Department she has repeatedly failed to lead, will be held accountable for their deeds. It has been a long time coming. DACC’s laziness and callous disregard for the public’s safety – despite multiple attacks on people and animals – and despite multiple complaints to DACC, the Sheriff’s Department and to the Board of Supervisors, simply failed to impound a bunch of unlicensed, unaltered, stray dogs. Even Alex Jackson, who now sits in jail for murder, called animal control to advise them that he had been feeding stray dogs dumped in the desert and that the dogs on his property were not his and were un-licensed strays. DACC has 27 days between Alex Jackson’s call and the mauling to pick up those stray dogs. But they didn’t.
Will Judge Recana’s ruling motivate the County to try to settle this case before the truth of their negligence and reckless disregard of the public’s safety is splattered in technicolor all over the public record? The evidence is explosive and it keeps coming. Whistleblowers (whose privacy is protected by attorney-client privilege and the press’ right to hold sources confidential) continue to provide more evidence to the Plaintiffs. Many DACC employees have been disgusted for years while their complaints about mismanagement, failure to follow DACC procedures have fallen on deaf ears – even at the Supervisor level. Further, those who spoke out against Mayeda – even when their complaints were about procedural failures – resulted in the messenger receiving discipline rather than the legitimate issues raised being addressed. As long as employees stayed silent, their failure to perform even the most fundamental duties of their job was condoned, even when it came to picking up stray, unlicensed marauding animals.
It leaves no doubt that there was a conspiracy involving Marcia Mayeda, the DACC and the office of County Board of Supervisor Mike Antonovich to cover-up the agency’s negligence. The Sheriff’s Department hands are also dirty on this one, as it appears that they also were called by the public on multiple occasions regarding attacks on people and animals.
Reliable sources state that there will be no settlement without the County publicly admitting they failed in their duty and taking responsibility for their actions because only real change in leadership and staffing – not the usual lip service – is the only way to prevent this from happening to another person’s wife or mother. The plaintiffs reportedly will not accept any settlement that does not include the dismissal of Mayeda and a meaningful audit and overhaul of animal control.
Legal experts speculate that a jury trial could yield a judgment well into eight figures. Los Angeles County self-insures, which means that continuing to employ Marcia Mayeda, when they had knowledge of her misdeeds, may be the single most expensive mistake Los Angeles County has ever made. Supervisor Antonovich will have to face the bright light of truth as it is shined on his office’s own culpability in this case. There is a great deal at stake – not only a multi-million dollar verdict – but Antonovich’s reputation and legacy as well. If Antonovich and the County want to make the Devitt’s go away without their culpability being exposed, they are going to have to begin negotiations by offering up Marcia Mayeda’s head. Otherwise it’s see you in court, in front of a jury and a Judge who does not appear to be impressed with the DACC’s antics.
Alex Jackson, the owner of some of the marauding pit dogs, was convicted of second degree murder and sentenced to fifteen years to life in a criminal court. The County happily drove the Alex Jackson “murder” bus when manslaughter would have been the proper charge. Why? To deflect from their own liability and failure to perform their duty. Alex Jackson may have been a marijuana grower and an addict, but he had no intention to kill anyone. He fed the stray dogs others had previously dumped in the desert who the DACC failed to pick up. So we pay for Alex Jackson to sit in jail when he is no danger to others. We also pay Mayeda’s $213,282 annual salary (plus she receives over $50,000 in additional benefits!) while she oversees DACC’s budget of $39,000,000 – and yet over a period of several months and after multiple complaints, the DACC could not perform their most fundamental duty by impounding a few dangerous stray, unlicensed dogs. If they had just done their job, Pamela Devitt would still be alive.
Marcia Mayeda and her employees failed to prevent the attack from ever occurring and then engaged in a deliberate cover-up in an attempt to hide their reckless disregard for their duties. Should Marcia Mayeda be charged with manslaughter and obstruction of justice? That is a matter for a Grand Jury to decide, and only time will tell. As more ugly truths comes to light and the panic and blame game sets in, we are likely to see the fur fly all over Los Angeles County.