Deputy District Attorney Grover Merritt left. District Attorney Michael Ramos right.

By Joe Nelson, The Sun
Posted: 05/25/14, 7:31 PM PDT |

The race for San Bernardino County district attorney pits incumbent Michael A. Ramos against one of his own prosecutors and longtime adversaries, Grover Merritt.

Ramos stands by his record as a tough-on-crime prosecutor, establishing several new units during his 12-year reign as district attorney and cracking down on gangbangers, public corruption and traffickers in child prostitution. His campaign has been critical of Merritt taking thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from family, friends and business associates of a key defendant in a public corruption case — supporters Ramos says are concerned more with ousting him from public office than they are of Merritt being district attorney.

“I think the facts speak for themselves,” Ramos said. “Our ethics and our integrity and our ability to make decisions is the biggest asset we have. That’s a huge responsibility.”

Merritt characterizes Ramos’ tenure as a failure. He said the crime rate has risen, with the county ranked among the worst in the country for gang crimes. He called the special units Ramos has created “window dressing,” established merely for publicity purposes.

“After 12 years, he owns that record,” Merritt said.

The animosity between Ramos and Merritt dates back a decade. In 2004, Ramos fired Merritt after suspecting him of leaking information on two criminal cases, one involving former Sheriff Floyd Tidwell and another involving a triple-murder suspect from Yucca Valley, to a reporter. Merritt denied the allegation and appealed his termination.

In July 2005, an arbitrator, in a 12-page ruling, determined there was no hard evidence to corroborate Ramos’ suspicions and recommended that Merritt get his job back and receive pay for the nine months he’d been out of work.

Merritt said he subsequently sued Ramos in federal court for wrongful termination, and in December 2006 received a settlement of roughly $297,500.

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