State Treasurer Might Have to Testify in Court if Lawsuit by Santa Ana Police Union President Isn’t Quashed
California State Treasurer Fiona Ma has been named in court documents filed by attorneys representing Santa Ana Police Chief David Valentin.
By DUANE ROBERTS
Editor & Publisher
In a stunning development, an anti-SLAPP motion recently filed in Orange County Superior Court by attorneys representing David Valentin, chief of the Santa Ana Police Department, names Fiona Ma, the state treasurer, and suggests she might end up being called to testify as a witness in court if they are unable to convince a judge to quash a lawsuit initiated by Gerry Serrano, president of the Santa Ana Police Officers Association.
The motion in question, which was submitted on February 22nd, seeks to have Serrano’s lawsuit dismissed on the grounds it was “brought primarily to chill and punish Chief Valentin for engaging in constitutionally protected activities” and that its claims “are not legally cognizable, lack factual merit, and are barred by relevant defenses and immunities” because they “arise out of protected speech and petitioning activity.”
But if Valentin’s lawyers can’t get the suit tossed, it’s possible Ma could be subpoenaed as a witness if it goes to trial. One key argument they make is that Serrano has not only waged a campaign to “personally and maliciously attack” the police chief and other city officials as part of an effort to “reverse a CalPERS decision” which limits his future pension earnings, but that he has even used “union money” to pursue this goal.
Excerpt from the anti-SLAPP motion.
On page 11, the motion devotes an entire paragraph to evidence The Anaheim Investigator uncovered showing that Ma tried to help Serrano increase his pension by backing two new laws that would exempt him from rules which prohibit the California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS) from giving him service credit for “special compensation” earned while on a leave of absence from his duties as a police sergeant.
Emails revealed that the state treasurer, her executive staff, and employees of CalPERS not only drafted these laws exclusively for Serrano’s benefit, but even shared the proposed text with him. Furthermore, while all of this was occurring, the Santa Ana Police Officers Association Independent Expenditure Committee funneled $15,900 into Ma’s bid to get re-elected, making them one of her biggest campaign contributors.
It should be noted Ma isn’t the only public official named in this paragraph. Marcie Frost, the CEO of CalPERS, is mentioned. There is also a reference to a “CalPERs official” known to The Investigator as Anthony Suine, Deputy Executive Officer for Customer Services & Support. And Tina Arias Miller, a Rancho Santiago Community College District Trustee, is identified as being the “girlfriend of one of Serrano‘s associates.”
Serrano and Valentin in 2019.
The fact that Valentin’s legal team has brought up this issue is significant. It suggests that if they are unable to convince a judge to quash Serrano’s lawsuit, they are more than willing to put Ma up on the witness stand and ask some tough questions about her close relationship with the embattled police union president, including the role her office played in helping draft two new laws exclusively for his benefit.
And unlike the real world, there are criminal penalties if Ma is caught lying in a courtroom. The state treasurer won’t be able to utter the kind of deceptive remarks she made last month when she misled a journalist for the Voice of OC into thinking the legislation she backed for Serrano only dealt with Senate Bill 278. The proposed laws The Investigator reported about had nothing to do with that bill and were never voted on.
The anti-SLAPP motion is currently scheduled to be heard in Dept. C20 of the Central Justice Center on June 15th. However, a source has told us it will be costly for Serrano to fight and that the Santa Ana Police Officers Association doesn’t have enough money. In the meanwhile, there will be one politician in Sacramento who will be nervously watching this matter from afar, crossing her fingers and hoping it never goes to trial.
Below is the anti-SLAPP motion filed in Orange County Superior Court by attorneys representing Santa Ana Police Chief David Valentin.