David Paul Edmiston, a former Kern High School District acting police chief, retired from the department this month — three days before prosecutors dismissed a charge of illegal eavesdropping against him, KHSD officials confirmed.
Edmiston pleaded no contest last year to one charge of misdemeanor illegal eavesdropping after surreptitiously recording conversations with one of his subordinate officers. The Kern County District Attorney’s Office offered Edmiston a one-year deferred entry of judgment last March, meaning he would only be sentenced if he broke the law again.
So his charge was dismissed April 3. He retired from his position with the district March 31, KHSD spokeswoman Lisa Krch said. He was on administrative leave from Oct. 19, 2016, to Sept. 7, 2017, Krch added.
Edmiston was the first KHSD police official to have criminal charges brought against him amid a scandal that began in 2015 related to the district’s misuse of the California Law Enforcement Telecommunications System, a sensitive police information database.
The system is accessible to law enforcement and others who are trained and authorized to run checks on individuals on a “need-to-know, right-to-know” basis, and only when there’s a legitimate law enforcement purpose.
But KHSD administrators were using it to run license plates on students, background checks on prospective employees and others, according to police reports and a Californian investigation last year. Administrators, including Athletics Director Stan Greene, were asking for license plates to be run.
KHSD Police Chief Joseph Lopeteguy blew the whistle on the district in 2015 after observing rampant misuse. Lopeteguy asked the Kern County Sheriff’s Office to investigate.
After Lopeteguy went on a personal stress leave in August 2016, Edmiston — a KCSO commander who went to work for the district after retirement — became acting chief.
KHSD police Lt. Jerald Wyatt — one of Lopeteguy’s supporters who assisted his investigation into CLETS misuse — alleged Edmiston illegally recorded at least four of their conversations, Wyatt’s lawyer, Seth O’Dell, told The Californian last year.
Those recordings have been under court seal, however O’Dell has said that they broadly pertain to job performance and discussions about other officers. Edmiston's lawyer, Kyle Humphrey, said last year that Edmiston planned to only use the recordings for "personal notes," and that he was unaware he was breaking a law.
It’s unclear whether an internal affairs investigation was launched into Edmiston’s conduct. Ed Komin, KHSD's acting police chief, told The Californian last year that the investigation could have been handled by police officers within the department, or tasked to an outside agency.
Neither Edmiston nor Krch would say which agency conducted the internal investigation this week, citing that “the information requested maybe confidential information contained in a peace officer’s personnel file.”
Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood said Tuesday that his department did not conduct the investigation, and that KHSD must, by law, say whether there was an investigation and whether it was "sustained or not sustained."