Read more: California court rules on alleged hacking of workers’ compensation litigation records
In 2017, the OCDA elected not to pursue the criminal prosecution and referred the case to Kelly Ernby, an assistant Orange County attorney, for civil prosecution. In 2018, Ernby filed a civil lawsuit on behalf of the people of the State of California.
The complaint alleged violations of the Unfair Competition Act and alleged that the defendants did the following:
- employed dozens of workers to complete the Orange County Fair project and secured the profits of the project;
- committed more than two thousand separate violations of law, fraudulent acts and unfair trade practices related to the project;
- did not pay a salary of approximately $200,000;
- avoided paying state payroll taxes by failing to report the wages of many workers to state authorities;
- submitted fraudulent payroll reports, forged checks and other falsified documents to project administrators and government officials;
- threatened one or more workers about their work or their expulsion to prevent them from reporting illegal practices to the authorities.
In 2020, the defendants filed a motion seeking an order challenging and disqualifying Ernby, a retired Orange County assistant prosecutor involved in the criminal investigation, and the rest of the OCDA.
The defendants alleged that the OCDA committed misconduct by improperly handling documents protected by solicitor-client privilege and the work product doctrine. They also claimed that Ernby wrongly threatened a defendant, his attorney and a paralegal with criminal prosecution in the action alleging violations of unfair competition law.