A former acting chief of the Kern High School District Police Department has been charged with illegally eavesdropping on his subordinate officers, the Kern County District Attorney’s office announced Wednesday.
It's alleged that David Edmiston recorded confidential communications without the consent of the people involved in the conversations on four separate occasions, the D.A.'s office said in a news release.
He's been charged with four misdemeanor counts, the release said. An arraignment date has not been set. His bail is set at $10,000.
The Californian has been unable to reach Edmiston, and KHSD officials did not return calls seeking comment for this story.
“Mr. Edmiston interviewed employees at the Kern High School District’s police department and the manner caused us to press charges,” said Supervising Deputy District Attorney Michael Yraceburn.
It was Jerald Wyatt, a lieutenant in the department, who reported Edmiston to the Bakersfield Police Department when he discovered he was being recorded, Wyatt's lawyer confirmed.
“On behalf of Jerald Wyatt, we are pleased to see the process of justice beginning to take place," said Brandon Holladay, partner at the Young & Nichols Law Firm, which is representing Wyatt. "This circumstance is indicative of just how difficult it has been for Officer Wyatt to conduct his duties with integrity and professionalism at the Kern High School District."
Wyatt went on a medical stress leave from the district this month, Holladay said.
Yraceburn wouldn’t discuss the conversations that were recorded, but said there were some “privacy issues at hand.” That’s why search warrant returns that reveal what evidence has been collected in a case — and are regularly disclosed to the public — have been under court seal, Yraceburn said.
BPD officials requested the court seal, Yraceburn said, not the D.A.’s office.
The BPD recommended an eavesdropping charge against Edmiston on Nov. 3. The charge was considered a “wobbler,” meaning it could have been charged as a misdemeanor or felony.
Edmiston served less than two months as acting chief. KHSD Superintendent Bryon Schaefer placed him on administrative leave Oct. 19, though the district refused to say why.
Edmiston took the reins of the district’s 22-member police force Aug. 22 after district Police Chief Joe Lopeteguy, who’d reported that high-level administrators had been misusing a sensitive police information database to run background checks on students and staff members, went on stress leave.
At least one of those staff members had filed a worker’s compensation claim against the district and the child was in special education, according to reports filed by the Kern County Sheriff’s Office, to which Lopeteguy had brought his concerns.
Sheriff’s officials recommended criminal charges against former KHSD Police Chief Mike Collier and Director of Pupil Personnel Otis Jennings. The District Attorney’s office declined to press charges, citing an expired statute of limitations and insufficient evidence.
Lopeteguy was placed on leave during the middle of the sheriff’s investigation. He was reinstated in early August, went on a medical stress leave, and then filed a $2.2 million claim against the high school district alleging retaliation.
In the wake of the California Law Enforcement Telecommunications System scandal, KHSD has hired a third-party investigator with no price ceiling, contracted with a consulting group to advise the district’s police force on best practices, and given Schaefer “civilian oversight” of the department.