Capping a years-long conflict, an arbitrator Monday rejected former state Sen. Joseph Dunn’s allegation that he was fired as executive director of the State Bar for blowing the whistle on the licensing organization’s lapses.
Arbitrator Edward Infante had conducted a trial-like hearing into Dunn’s allegations last month in Los Angeles, and Monday’s 30-page ruling exonerated the State Bar, which had said it fired Dunn in 2014 for misleading the agency’s board about critical policy matters.
Dunn had initially filed a lawsuit against the State Bar, but his allegation was diverted into an arbitration proceeding under terms of his contract. Infante found that Dunn had, indeed, misled the board.
Dunn, a Democrat who represented Orange County in the Senate, had sought more than $4 million for his whistleblower claim and another $190,000 in severance pay.
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Dunn’s stormy tenure as State Bar executive director and his subsequent whistleblower claim have roiled an agency already under fire for running up a backlog of disciplinary actions against the attorney it licenses.
Last year, the Legislature deadlocked on an otherwise routine bill authorizing the State Bar to continue collecting “dues” from attorneys to support its operations. The conflict was over how extensively the Legislature should write State Bar reforms.
The state Supreme Court authorized the State Bar to continue collecting dues until the legislative stalemate was resolved, and it’s back on the agenda for this year’s legislative session.