Chris Walsh to resign as Assistant District Attorney
Special to the Sierra Sun
The current assistant district attorney for Nevada County will resign from office next month, citing a poor professional relationship with the incoming district attorney as the primary reason for his decision.
Chris Walsh, who has been the county’s assistant district attorney since 2017, said he submitted his letter of resignation to the District Attorney’s Office earlier this week. Walsh said that his last day on the job will be July 11 — the day before Jesse Wilson, the newly appointed district attorney — is set to start.
Wilson, currently a prosecutor in El Dorado County, will assume the position next month, having been selected June 8 by the Nevada County Board of Supervisors in a 3-to-2 vote. Wilson previously worked at the Nevada County District Attorney’s Office alongside Walsh before leaving in 2018 for his current role.
Wilson will hold the position on an interim level, completing the term of outgoing District Attorney Clifford Newell, who is retiring. Newell had endorsed Walsh for the role prior to the Board of Supervisors’ vote earlier this month.
Walsh said that he is leaving the District Attorney’s Office proud of his accomplishments, touting the training and hiring of a number of new prosecutors under his tenure as one of his most significant achievements.
“I’m very proud of some of the things I’ve been able to accomplish in my time here, and I’m especially proud of some of the employees I’ve been able to bring over here,” Walsh said.
“When I arrived here four years ago, a lot of prosecutors here would live in other counties and just come here to work, and they didn’t have any connection to this community … I’ve been able to hire experienced prosecutors who have bought homes here and have sunk roots into this community and are now living here, and looking forward that really makes this office a lot stronger.”
In explaining his decision to resign, Walsh said that he felt as though it would not be appropriate for him to continue to serve as assistant district attorney, due to a history of significant disagreements between himself and Wilson that would make for a difficult professional relationship.
“I want (Wilson) to have the opportunity to have an assistant DA who supports his agenda and hopefully will help him be successful. It’s extremely important for the assistant DA and the DA to be on same page,” Walsh said.
Wilson, who was a prosecutor in Nevada County before leaving for a position in El Dorado County in 2018, has been publicly critical of Walsh and Newell’s leadership of the District Attorney’s Office.
Wilson cited substantial differences of principle with Newell’s administration as the primary reason why he left Nevada County in 2018. More recently, during the June 8 Board of Supervisors meeting, Wilson criticized the current office for what he called an unsatisfactory conviction rate in cases prosecuted.
Walsh said that given Wilson’s public criticism of himself and the current district attorney, it would be counterproductive for him to serve as Wilson’s assistant.
“In this situation, as an at-will employee, I don’t think it would be productive for the incoming DA, who has indicated that he’s coming in to change the way things are being done, for me to continue,” Walsh said. “Nor would it be productive with him coming into the office the way he did, as someone who I know and have worked with, and he’s been critical of myself.
“A person acting in the role of assistant DA has to have a certain level of confidence and trust in the experience and integrity of the DA they serve. Respectfully, I don’t have that with the incoming administration,” Walsh added.
Walsh has said that because his position is at-will, meaning that the assistant district attorney serves only at the pleasure of the district attorney, he expected to be dismissed from his position once Wilson assumed the office.
Noting a total absence of communication with Wilson since the Board of Supervisors’ vote, Walsh said there appeared to be no interest on the incoming district attorney’s part to retain Walsh as assistant.
Despite his differences with Wilson, Walsh emphasized his commitment to continuing to conduct his work as a prosecutor at a high level, and to leaving the office in a stable place before his departure in July.
“I’m committed to making sure there is smooth and orderly transition, and I don’t want any issues to develop that will jeopardize cases because of the transition,” he said.
“I wish Jesse Wilson the best, and despite my misgivings I hope he rises to the occasion. The citizens of Nevada County deserve a strong District Attorney’s Office.”
Wilson declined to comment as to his professional relationship with Walsh, emphasizing that he’s focused on the future success of the office, and not on past disagreements.
“I wish Chris Walsh well in his future endeavors and appreciate his service to Nevada County,” Wilson said in an email. “With that being said, I am looking to the future of the Nevada County District Attorney’s Office and not dwelling on the past. I look forward to working with the men and women of the DA’s office, as well as other community stakeholders, to obtain justice and protect the community at the highest possible level.”
Walsh said that he does not yet have any definitive career plans after resigning next month, but did say that he’s looking at a couple of other potential prosecutor positions in communities outside of Nevada County.
Stephen Wyer is a staff writer with The Union, a sister publication of the Sierra Sun. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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