A prominent criminal defense attorney from Los Banos and former school board trustee had his law license suspended last week by the California State Bar due to a failure to pay child support.
Dominic Falasco's license was suspended on Jan. 23. He is not allowed to practice law in the state during the suspension, according to records from the State Bar of California.
Jonah Lamb, spokesman for the State Bar, said Falasco's license was suspended through administrative action, which means it could be reinstated if Falasco becomes solvent on his child support.
Administrative suspensions are not uncommon, Lamb said.
"For an administrative suspension, in general, it doesn't mean the lawyer has violated any rules of professional conduct or has done anything ethically wrong," Lamb said.
Falasco did not respond to repeated requests for comment. His attorney, Robert Forkner, also did not respond to telephone calls to his office seeking comment.
Falasco made headlines in 2016 when Merced County prosecutors credited him with helping to expose an alleged bribery scheme involving fellow former school board member Tommy Jones and Merced area contractor Gregory Opinski.
Falasco, a Los Banos Unified School District trustee at the time, allegedly was given $12,000 by Jones on behalf of Opinski for Falasco's vote on a school board decision to award Opinski the construction manager contract for the expansion of Mercey Springs Elementary School, according to a Merced County District Attorney's Office investigation.
Falasco secretly recorded audio and video of several meetings with Opinski and Jones prior to the alleged bribe, according to investigation reports.
Opinski and Jones were arrested on multiple felony charges of bribing a public official in late August and early September 2016. Both have pleaded not guilty, and Falasco is considered a key witness.
Since then, Falasco lost his seat on the board in a recount after the November 2016 election.
Opinski's attorney in the corruption case, Jeffrey Hammerschmidt, filed a motion in court last March claiming Falasco solicited sex from a client's girlfriend. The motion was filed to call Falasco's credibility into question, Hammerschmidt said.
Falasco denied those claims and noted that a State Bar investigation yielded no charges against him.
The State Bar doesn't confirm, deny or comment on investigations until a public confirmation of charges is made, officials said.
Falasco wasn’t retained as a contract public defender by Ciummo and Associates after the law firm took over conflict cases for Merced County last year, according to the firm’s CEO, Mike Fitzgerald. That means Merced Superior Court hasn’t assigned him any cases since the switch to Ciummo and Associates.
Falasco pleaded guilty in September last year to misdemeanor possession of a controlled substance as part of a diversion program, said Mariposa County District Attorney Thomas Cooke, who prosecuted the misdemeanor case.
Falasco also suffered minor injuries in a single vehicle collision on Nov. 7, 2017, after his truck veered off a Merced County road between Los Banos and Merced.
During his suspension, Falasco's remaining cases are expected to be assigned to either the Merced County Public Defender's Office, or an attorney through Ciummo and Associates, Merced Superior Court CEO Linda Romero Soles said.