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Stephen Wagstaffe: Almanac Got it Wrong

Original post made by Jon Buckheit on May 11, 2010

On April 21, 2010, The Almanac Editor Renee Batti wrote an article entitled "Atherton asks D.A. to investigate police misconduct charge".

Batti interviewed Chief Deputy District Attorney Stephen Wagstaffe in response to allegations made by Atherton resident Jon Buckheit. She reported:

"Regarding Mr. Buckheit's claim that because his lawsuit names the county, the district attorney shouldn't be involved in the investigation, Mr. Wagstaffe said, 'If we had a legal conflict, we would withdraw.' Opinions issued by the state attorney general support the involvement of the district attorney under the circumstances, he said."

In the same article, Wagstaffe is quoted as saying that "Mr. Buckheit's 'facts are just wrong' ".

Enter John Johns, CPA. Having developed an eagle eye for the stretching of the truth during his own multi-year ordeal of being persecuted by Wagstaffe and the Atherton Police Department, Johns dispatched a public records request to the county, asking for the Attorney General opinions Wagstaffe relied on to determine no conflict existed.

The response? The Almanac misreported Wagstaffe.

In a letter to Johns dated May 10, Deputy County Counsel Paul Okada wrote: "the Almanac...was inaccurate. My understanding is that no Attorney General opinions, whether formal or informal, were referenced by Mr. Wagstaffe. Rather, Mr. Wagstaffe was referring generally to the process by which a District Attorney's office could obtain opinions regarding potential conflicts of interest and recusal from the State Attorney General".

Did the Almanac get it wrong? Or was Mr. Wagstaffe simply assuming that in a county in which no large newspaper exists to do rigorous fact checking on every statement, he could shuck and jive his way through the interview? It is important to remember that Batti asked him to respond to Buckheit's assertion that he had a conflict of interest, and had he merely stated processes existed to determine whether that assertion was true, it certainly would not have amounted to the denial that was reported.

More and more, the man who as Chief Deputy District Attorney (and, running unopposed, about to become District Attorney) is supposed to be smack at the center of the legal truth, is finding himself on the borders of it.

For his part, Johns has dispatched another public records request asking for any documents evidencing Wagstaffe actually exercising the process Okada refers to.

Comments (9)

Posted by Michael G. Stogner, a resident of another community
on May 11, 2010 at 9:22 am

I don't know any other way to say this.

San Mateo County Deputy District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe is a liar.

I have reported this to our Board of Supervisors for 10 years.


Welcome to San Mateo County


Posted by John P Johns, CPA, a resident of another community
on May 11, 2010 at 1:49 pm

Aside from Mr. Buckheit's description of my visual acuity, his post is accurate.

I will keep readers apprised of what the county's reply to my follow-up records request yields.


Posted by Harump, a resident of another community
on May 11, 2010 at 2:18 pm

The board of Supervisors is not what it should be, but is gaining by losing one of its regulars.


Posted by Joe Average, a resident of Woodside: other
on May 11, 2010 at 2:52 pm

Precisely why we need Stogner to replace that seat. This crap with Wagstaffe has gone on for too long. Aggressively prosecuting murderers is one thing, but railroading taxpaying citizens to protect crooked cops is too much.


Posted by David, a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on May 20, 2010 at 3:57 pm

Steve Wagstaffe is one of the best human beings you could ever be fortunate enough to meet. The people of San Mateo County are lucky to have him as a public servant and can only hope that he continues to serve the community in the future.

I do not know the specifics of this particular incident, but I will give him every benefit of the doubt.


Posted by POGO, a resident of Woodside: other
on May 20, 2010 at 6:36 pm

David -

Unfortunately, the benefit of the doubt does not inure to the government.

We are protected by the Bill of Rights and all of us are presumed innocent until proven guilty.

The district attorney has the burden of proof and does not have the luxury of getting the benefit of the doubt. That's reserved for us.


Posted by True Blue, a resident of Atherton: other
on May 20, 2010 at 8:10 pm

Does anyone think that once he finally gets the job that he has wanted for so long, that Wagstaffe might finally relax a bit on the overcharges to get better settlement wins, or that he might distance himself a bit from such extreme loyalty to his police friends?
He is supposed to represent the public interest so I would like to see a more open mind, instead of always exhibiting such extreme and total confidence in backing up only the police version of every story. The police are not always perfect. They need leadership that is rare to come by in the culture of "the thin blue line". He would be a better friend to them and a better D.A. for us, if he would be willing occasionally to hold them to account.
I wish that some one had had the nerve to run against him so that we could all be sure that he understands that his allegiance should be to the public good--not just his buddies in blue.


Posted by Jon Buckheit, a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on May 20, 2010 at 11:34 pm

Is there any chance to interest POGO to become city manager of Atherton, or D.A. of San Mateo County, or even Governor of California?


Posted by True Blue, a resident of Atherton: other
on May 20, 2010 at 11:51 pm

The 11:00 news just now ran an incredible story on a judges ruling in San Francisco today, that will have an important and corrective impact on all DA's offices in California if upheld.
Read tomorrow's newspaper!
Also -I agree about Pogo


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