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No evidence of misconduct in Shasta District Attorney’s handling of Zogg Fire settlement

Shasta County District Attorney Stephanie Bridgett did nothing improper when she selected to not proceed to pursue legal prices in opposition to Pacific Gas and Electric Company, as a substitute reaching a $50 million civil settlement with the utility for allegedly beginning the lethal 2020 Zogg Fire in western Shasta County.

That’s the conclusion made by the California Attorney General’s Office in a letter despatched to county Supervisor Patrick Jones on Jan. 29.

Jones was chairman of the board when he despatched a letter on Aug. 29 asking the Attorney General’s workplace to assessment the case and to probably appoint a particular counsel to research Bridgett’s conduct.

Supervisors had mentioned they needed to know extra about what led to the Shasta County District Attorney’s Office deciding to succeed in a settlement with PG&E over the Zogg Fire and the way the cash was distributed in the neighborhood.

The Zogg Fire killed 4 individuals, destroyed 204 constructions and burned 56,000 acres in western Shasta County in September 2020.

Shasta County District Attorney Stephanie Bridgett announced a $50 million civil settlement over the 2020 Zogg Fire with PG&E on Wednesday, May 31, 2023.Shasta County District Attorney Stephanie Bridgett announced a $50 million civil settlement over the 2020 Zogg Fire with PG&E on Wednesday, May 31, 2023.

Shasta County District Attorney Stephanie Bridgett introduced a $50 million civil settlement over the 2020 Zogg Fire with PG&E on Wednesday, May 31, 2023.

“After thoroughly reviewing the court records, available reports, and information about the settlement, our conclusion is that the District Attorney did not abuse her discretion in dismissing criminal charges and instead reaching a significant civil settlement,” the letter in half mentioned.

The letter additional acknowledged that there was ”no evidence of misconduct or impropriety” in how the settlement with PG&E was reached.

The letter was from Lance Winters, the chief assistant lawyer basic in the legal division.

The DA’s workplace didn’t see the lawyer basic’s letter despatched to Jones till this week, after Bridgett’s workplace requested AG in regards to the supervisor’s request from final summer season.

“I would have liked to receive a copy of the letter when it was initially sent. Upon receipt of the letter this week, I determined it needed to be released to the public to bring closure to that case and the issues raised about it. It is my hope that this decision by the Attorney General’s Office will provide answers to those in our community that had questions concerning its handling by myself and my office,” Bridgett mentioned in an electronic mail.

Jones mentioned he didn’t share the letter with DA Bridgett as a result of he was not chair of the board and he assumed everybody bought a duplicate of the letter.

“It’s not my responsibility to see if the DA got it or not, so I assume the Attorney General would have sent her the same letter,” he added.

Shasta County Board of Supervisors Chairman Patrick Jones listens to a speaker during a board meeting on Tuesday, May 30, 2023.Shasta County Board of Supervisors Chairman Patrick Jones listens to a speaker during a board meeting on Tuesday, May 30, 2023.

Shasta County Board of Supervisors Chairman Patrick Jones listens to a speaker throughout a board assembly on Tuesday, May 30, 2023.

Asked if he shared the letter with anybody, Jones mentioned, “I am certain I talked to the chair about that.”

Supervisor Kevin Crye has chaired the board since Dec. 5, 2023. He mentioned he doesn’t know why the letter was not shared. “I know CEO (David) Rickert or Patrick told me first about it,” Crye mentioned, including that he remembers asking what the following step ought to be.

Crye raised concerns in regards to the Zogg Fire settlement final summer season and on the time mentioned he needed to rent an impartial counsel to search out out why Bridgett did not push more durable to criminally prosecute PG&E for allegedly beginning the blaze.

In September 2021, the DA’s workplace charged PG&E with manslaughter, together with different prices, in reference to the deaths in the Zogg Fire. After a preliminary listening to on evidence in the case, Shasta County Superior Court Judge Bradley Boeckman dominated there was sufficient evidence to ship the case to trial.

District 1 Supervisor Kevin Crye at the Tuesday, April 25, 2023, board meeting.District 1 Supervisor Kevin Crye at the Tuesday, April 25, 2023, board meeting.

District 1 Supervisor Kevin Crye on the Tuesday, April 25, 2023, board assembly.

But in April 2023, Judge Daniel Flynn overturned Boeckman’s ruling, stopping the DA’s workplace from going ahead with the case.

“We could have refiled the case but that would have forced us to start the entire case over. A case that had already taken two years to get to that point,” Bridgett mentioned in the e-mail.

“If we had refiled the case, there’s also the possibility that it would have ended with the exact same result. That means we could have put the entire community and all the victims through two more years of waiting for no better result. Considering all those factors, we decided to do everything we could to help the community right now, to get as many resources as we could back into the community for fire prevention,” Bridgett mentioned.

Supervisor Tim Garman, whose district consists of the world the Zogg Fire burned, mentioned he additionally didn’t know in regards to the letter despatched to Jones in January.

Tim Garman is shown seated at the Shasta County Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 8, 2022. At last count, Garman was leading the vote to replace Leonard Moty as Shasta County District 2 supervisor. Garman is the board president of the Happy Valley Unified School District.Tim Garman is shown seated at the Shasta County Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 8, 2022. At last count, Garman was leading the vote to replace Leonard Moty as Shasta County District 2 supervisor. Garman is the board president of the Happy Valley Unified School District.

Tim Garman is proven seated on the Shasta County Board of Supervisors assembly on Tuesday, Feb. 8, 2022. At final rely, Garman was main the vote to interchange Leonard Moty as Shasta County District 2 supervisor. Garman is the board president of the Happy Valley Unified School District.

“The other supervisors may or may not have known about it. So much for transparency,” Garman mentioned.

He additionally mentioned supervisors didn’t focus on the response letter from the AG’s workplace.

“We haven’t discussed it all, nor would we have discussed it, (but) the public has the right to know,” Garman mentioned. “They made a huge deal out of that (sending a letter to the AG’s office). Those (fire) victims deserve to know that the DA did everything correctly.”

Jones mentioned the AG’s response letter didn’t shock him.

Crye didn’t have a touch upon the response letter.

Garman wonders if the letter wasn’t launched as a result of it got here a couple of month earlier than the March 5 election. Both Jones and Crye have been on the poll.

Jones misplaced his re-election bid and Crye beat back an attempted to recall him by 50 votes.

Jones and Crye mentioned politics didn’t play a task.

“I didn’t look at it that way. I wasn’t the chair in January. I assume everybody got the letter. How would I know he (Garman) didn’t get the letter,” Jones mentioned.

This article initially appeared on Redding Record Searchlight: Shasta District Attorney’s conduct appropriate in Zogg Fire settlement

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