An Orange County prosecutor won another legal round Wednesday in his decade-long effort to win back his job and back pay following his dismissal for investigating a friend and supporter of Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas.
Lyle Wilson's case against the county dates back to his firing in 2002 after he investigated wealthy Newport Beach businessman Patrick Di Carlo.
The saga began in 2000 when Di Carlo requested Rackauckas look into what he thought was a threatening phone message from someone he thought was connected to the Mafia in New York City.
Wilson was assigned to the case, but eventually shifted his attention to Di Carlo and allegations of federal and state securities law violations, claims Di Carlo steadfastly denied.
Rackauckas fired Wilson for allegedly stealing evidence, continuing the probe against his boss' orders and leaking information to the news media.
When Rackauckas demanded the evidence Wilson had collected in his probe, Wilson turned over copies and kept the originals, according to the appellate court ruling.
Six years of litigation and legal maneuvering followed with a Los Angeles Superior Court judge ordering the county to give Wilson his job back, but not taking sides on how much pay Wilson was owed.
The county responded by paying Wilson $97,304 in back pay and benefits in October 2010, and then fired him again. Wilson then sought a court order forcing the county to pay him $1.1 million more and provide a retirement credit
of 7.9 years.
Orange County Superior Court Franz Miller sided with the county and denied Wilson's claim.
But a panel of three Fourth District Court of Appeal justices overturned Miller's ruling and sent it back to the lower court for further proceedings.
``The county has not suggested any reason why Wilson would not be entitled to wages or benefits from Dec. 30, 2002, to when he was discharged in 2010,'' the justices said in the ruling.
``Indeed, the county already calculated and paid what it believed it owed Wilson for this period of employment. Wilson simply is asserting the calculation is incorrect.''
The justices quoted an earlier ruling of the appellate court implying that county officials were playing legal games to avoid paying Wilson.
``As noted in the prior appellate decision, rather than seeking clarification of that judgment or filing an appeal to permit retroactive termination, the county `chose to game the system by backdating an amended discharge order ... hoping it would fly.'
"This ill-advised tactic was viewed by both the trial court and this court as an underhanded attempt to avoid paying Wilson salary and benefits.''
- City News Service