Independent public counsel denies disgruntled former deputy’s bid for monetary damages

Following outside counsel’s review of claim and related files, Santa Clara County Counsel rejects aspects of claim, finds other allegations time-barred by state law 

SAN FRANCISCO (July 17, 2014) — Santa Clara County Counsel Orry P. Korb’s office today denied a civil claim by a former San Francisco deputy city attorney who is seeking unspecified monetary damages from San Francisco taxpayers because of her separation from city employment.

Joanne Hoeper’s July 1 claim, which had been previously described by City Attorney’s Office spokesman Matt Dorsey as “baseless allegations of wrongdoing from a disgruntled former employee,” was referred on July 9 to the Santa Clara County Counsel’s Office together with all relevant files for independent evaluation and action. Such delegations of authority to independent outside public agency counsel are a common practice under reciprocal inter-governmental relationships, both to assure the integrity of claimants’ procedural rights and to avoid any appearance of conflict by the public agency involved.

The Santa Clara County Counsel’s notice to Hoeper returned without action all aspects of her claim related to alleged events that took place before Jan. 1, 2014, because such claims for monetary damages involving alleged harms older than six months are time-barred by California law. As to allegations relating to actions that took place on or after Jan. 1, Santa Clara explicitly rejected Hoeper’s claims.

In response, City Attorney spokesman Matt Dorsey issued the following statement:

“We’re pleased but not surprised that this meritless claim was rejected. As a former deputy city attorney, Ms. Hoeper was almost certainly aware that most of her baseless allegations were time-barred. That she chose to make them anyway — in a PR-driven pleading that likely shields her from defamation actions — I think demonstrates the vindictiveness underlying her claim. Ms. Hoeper is a disgruntled former employee, who clearly has some axes to grind against some of her former colleagues, who is expressly seeking a payout from San Francisco taxpayers. City Attorney Herrera owes a duty to those taxpayers, to all his current employees, and to all city attorneys who will follow him, to create no precedent or incentive for any disgruntled lawyer to betray the public trust by making reckless and unsupported charges of serious crimes in a bid to shake-down taxpayers. We hope Ms. Hoeper is satisfied that she has made her point, and that she refrains from wasting more public resources by continuing her bid for monetary damages. But the San Francisco City Attorney’s Office stands ready to aggressively defend our city, as well as the reputations of the dedicated men and women whose integrity Ms. Hoeper so carelessly sought to impugn.”

The California Government Tort Claims Act — the same law that time-barred Hoeper’s claims for monetary damages involving alleged harms older than six months — also imposes a six-month deadline from the date of the Santa Clara County Counsel notice today to file an action in state court to continue to pursue monetary damages through litigation. The relevant provision of state law is Government Code section 945.6.

Additional information on the San Francisco City Attorney’s Office is available at: https://www.sfcityattorney.org/.

Related Documents:

PDF icon PDF of S.F. City Attorney spokesman Dorsey’s statement on denial of Hoeper claim presskit (July 17, 2014)

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