San Luis Obispo County Assistant District Attorney Tim Covello will step down from his post Friday to become a prosecutor in Santa Barbara County.
Covello, 52, who has served as second in command at the San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s Office, sent a mass email to various departments in the county Wednesday afternoon, thanking colleagues and announcing his resignation.
He is stepping down a month after he lost a hard-fought bid for district attorney to Deputy District Attorney Dan Dow.
District Attorney Gerry Shea, whom Covello and Dow fought to replace, praised Covello’s performance in a written statement Thursday.
“I support Tim’s decision to further his career in Santa Barbara, and the public is fortunate that he’ll continue to represent the people of the state of California as a prosecutor,” Shea said.
Covello said Thursday afternoon that it has been a “terrific honor” to serve in the San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s Office for more than 20 years.
“The thing with leaving is you leave with mixed emotions. You make relationships in the office and with other agencies and in the court, and it’s not something you take lightly,” he said. “This has been one of the greatest honors of my life to serve this county.”
He declined to discuss whether he applied for the Santa Barbara job, or if it was offered.
“When the opportunity presented itself, I felt it was the right time to join the Santa Barbara office,” he added, noting that he has worked with the Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office over the years and is familiar with issues affecting that county.
Covello said he accepted a position as a deputy district attorney, which may bring him back into the courtroom after six years in management in San Luis Obispo. He will work under the direction of Santa Barbara District Attorney Joyce Dudley, who was elected to the office in 2010.
The Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office confirmed that Covello will start in mid-August.
During his tenure, Covello worked as lead prosecutor in a number of highly publicized cases, such as the 2013 prosecution of the five South County residents responsible for the murder of 15-year-old Dystiny Myers; the county’s first cold murder case of Peter Derks; and alongside now-judge John Trice in the death penalty case against the county’s most notorious serial killer, Rex Krebs.
“I have really a sense of gratitude for having had the opportunity to serve and work with some phenomenal people,” Covello said. “I think we have had a lot of successes.”
The resignation was not wholly unexpected. Covello was on the losing end of a bitter primary battle in which most of the deputy district attorneys came out in support of Dow, while many judges and police chiefs supported Covello.
The campaign began with Covello touting his courtroom and management experience and Dow criticizing Covello as an unapproachable administrator.
The race heated up as both candidates accused the other of taking ethically questionable campaign donations. Dow won the race by a healthy 53.8 percent to Covello’s 43.7 percent.
“One of the things I said the night of the election was that it’s time for the office to move forward and things to settle down,” Covello said. “The more I thought about it, I felt this might be part of that process.”
On Thursday, Dow said he wished Covello well, noting that the Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office, like all DA offices, has a challenging caseload that requires excellent prosecutors to handle the work.
“We expect that he will distinguish himself in the courtroom much as he did in his 15 years as a Deputy DA in San Luis Obispo County," Dow said.
v Matt Fountain is a reporter for the San Luis Obispo Tribune. Contact him at [email protected].