Gov Slaps Back Over Harsh Prison Report

Despite the umbrage taken in a Wednesday court filing, Arthur Shartsis wants people to know that his client, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, isn’t calling John Hagar a girly man.

On the contrary, Shartsis says Hagar — the court-appointed special master in a long running suit over California state prison conditions — has the best of intentions. The special master just overreached a bit, Shartsis said, when he filed a report in June accusing Schwarzenegger of crawling into bed with the powerful prison guards’ union when he hired former Gov. Gray Davis’s chief of staff, Susan Kennedy, to become his top deputy.

“California has taken three steps forward and then three steps back when attempting to reform its troubled prison system,” Hagar wrote in the report.

“Following the appointment of Susan Kennedy as the governor’s chief of staff on Jan. 1, 2006, a series of disturbing developments have taken place,” he added, accusing Kennedy of granting access to the guards’ union at the expense of reform efforts.

Shartsis — who said Schwarzenegger’s office hired him about 10 days ago — disagrees with Hagar, though he doesn’t question the special master’s intentions. “It’s just very tough,” he said, since Hagar, and Northern District Judge Thelton Henderson, have been working for years to reform the jails against the will of the union.

“The governor wholeheartedly supports this court’s and the special master’s goal to advance prison reform, and he believes that the best way to achieve that common goal is through cooperation and effective communication,” Shartsis wrote in his brief.

That doesn’t mean he agrees with Hagar. In the court filings, he dismissed Hagar’s recommendation that Henderson force an investigation of the governor’s relationship with the California Correction Peace Officers Association. “The suggestion by the special master that a state of cooperation exists between the governor and the CCPOA strains credibility,” he wrote, adding that “space limitations in this memorandum make it impossible to address all of the hearsay, conjecture, rumor and innuendo in the final report” by Hagar.

In an attached declaration, Kennedy was less diplomatic. In fact, she was “appalled” and “offended” by Hagar’s report. “The relationship between the governor and the CCPOA could best be described as adversarial,” she wrote.

Despite the objections to Hagar’s report, the governor’s office did assent to the special master’s request that an investigation be undertaken into the guards’ “code of silence,” in which they agree to not report misconduct, and offered to provide Henderson with quarterly reports on the progress of prison reform. The two sides are scheduled to make their cases to Henderson at an Oct. 4 hearing.

In the meantime, Shartsis said Wednesday that he’s confident the two sides can work out their differences. “There are some people who are understandably offended in the governor’s office, but I think there’s enough good will,” he said.

Justin Scheck

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