City attorney resigns amid pressure to drop child case

July 31, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
The city attorney of Walnut Creek says he resigned because he was being pressured by the council to drop a child abuse investigation. One of his top assistants has also stepped down. And now, the Walnut Creek City Council is ducking for cover.

Every member of the Walnut Creek City Council refused our request for an on the record interview Wednesday. They don't want to talk publicly about the resignation of city attorney Bryan Wenter. Wenter himself declined our request as did his assistant Katy Wisinski.

But we know their leaving is tied to the investigation into child sex abuse charges leveled against an employee of Walnut Creek's Lesher Center.

Jason Pedroza was charged in February with two felonies connected to text and Facebook messages he sent to teenaged girls.

Four city employees, including the human resources manager, were put on administrative leave while police and the city attorney looked into who knew about the suspected abuse and who might've failed to report it.

In an email to city staff, the city attorney wrote that he was pressured to drop the investigation when it appeared that it would reach up the chain at city hall.

Mayor Cindy Silva and Councilman Bob Simmons told the Contra Costa Times that the meeting took place but they denied trying to pressure the city attorney.

The four employees were allowed to return to their jobs. An investigation found that they acted appropriately over all.

But in a confidential report, an investigator found the four employees had not been trained that they were required to report suspected child abuse. The report also says the city manager knew of the abuse allegations but did not notify the police chief or other members of the Walnut Creek police.

"Anyone who supervises a program is required to report suspected child abuse," said Carol Carrillo, Executive Director of the Child Abuse Prevention Council.

Carrillo says her organization is now providing instruction to the city of Walnut Creek. News that the city attorney is resigning because he felt pressured to drop an investigation is troubling.

"This issue is frustrating for us in terms of raising awareness of the issue of child abuse and making sure that people report suspected child abuse," Carrillo said. "So every day we struggle with the issue yes."

On Wednesday, everyone directly involved in this case including the council, the chief of police, and the city attorney himself were all unwilling to talk publicly about it.

Next council meeting is set for Tuesday August 6.

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