Kern County Voter’s Guide: District Attorney candidate Scott Spielman

Leading up to the June Primary Election, the News Review will spotlight candidates in local races

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

Kern County Voter’s Guide: District Attorney candidate Scott Spielman“About seven years ago, I was promoted to assistant district attorney, which means I have been dealing with administrative responsibilities of the office — budget, personnel matters, policies and procedures, preparing for the board of supervisors, contracts, working relationships with other agencies and departments as well as overseeing the crime lab,” said Scott Spielman, who has been Kern County District Attorney Lisa Green’s assistant.

“So when Lisa decided she was not going to run again, I took a look at what my experience was.”

Spielman joined the Army in 1984 to become a military police officer. “I wanted to be a civilian police officer, but I was too young.”

After a brief stint in junior college, he joined the military and spent time training as serving as an M.P. in Europe.

“When I got out, I tried college again and did much better. I think it was the discipline from being in the military. When the professor told us what it took to get an A, that’s what I did,” he said.

He was encouraged by a family member to pursue law, and graduated from McGeorge Law School in 1993. His first job offer came in from the county DA’s office, where he has remained for 24 years, serving in numerous roles before being promoted to his present position.

He listed his work in the veterans justice program as one of his accomplishments. Through that, the county helps find the resources and services available to veterans who have committed crimes in order to help get them back on their feet.

Spielman also pointed to successes in improving technology — such as the DNA evidence used to help identify and ultimately locate Benjamin Ashley.

The murder suspect was at large in the rugged areas of East Kern before being noticed by a store clerk at Brady’s. Ashley was killed after a standoff with law enforcement.

“He was found because they were able to swab a water bottle, collect DNA evidence and put together a profile on him,” Spielman said. “I think we need to continue to use technology to help solve crimes.”

Spielman acknowledged that state mandates have severely impacted public safety and criminal justice. “We were opposed to AB 109,” he said. “The idea was that counties were better positioned to provide services to inmates — which sounds good, but nothing was available. So we went from about 175,000 inmates to about 125,000 inmates in the state. About 2,000 were sent back to Kern County.”

During the next few years, his office went from trying 5,000-6,000 felony cases a year to about 9,000.

Then when the county financial crisis hit — driven largely by the plummeting oil revenues — the office lost positions. “I can tell you at one time we lost so much funding that we did, for a short period of time, have some low-level misdemeanors we didn’t prosecute,” he said.

“We don’t have that anymore. I know that’s not what people are saying, but I don’t agree with their description.”

Spielman said he believes that the elected district attorney should advocate for fairer laws. He said that he helped implement a policy that can improve chances of convicting repeat DUI offenders who kill someone while impaired.

“The advantage I have is that I already know how to run the office of district attorney because I’ve been doing it for seven years. I have endorsements from five DAs, which means I have those relationships in place already,” he said.

Spielman said that the office is also recovering from its losses of funding.

“[Ridgecrest has] two deputy DAs now who work every day, which provides adequate representation. And those DAs have a supervisor over them, so if the public has concerns, there is someone they can bring them to.”

He cautioned that while the county is recovering from the oil crisis, “we are still going to be struggling. We’ve got another 2.5- percent reduction coming up, and that could go up to 5 percent. Though each year I’ve worked through reduced budgets and managed to get the job done.”

Spielman said the next financial crisis will be in dealing with pension costs. “The board negotiates those contracts, and then the costs are passed along to departments that have to find a way to pay for rising costs.

“Every year, I start out in the hole. The money paid out is more and the actuarial returns decrease. But we have struggled through that by making adjustments. I reduced our fleet by 25 percent — starting by getting rid of my own car. There are people who are not happy about that, but it was necessary.”

He said one thing he would like to see the office improve upon by partnering with communities across the county is the rampant increase in property crimes.

Those can be traced back, for the most part, to addicts looking to feed their habits — a population that ballooned when AB 109 let out nonviolent offenders. There is currently no incentive for those struggling with addictions to complete accountability programs, he said.

“We have to do better. If we can centralize services, I think we can better serve our entire county.”

Story First Published: 2018-05-11