≡ Menu
Share

In the good old days, pre-2017, designating a city a sanctuary city was a largely symbolic act, partly because U.S. commerce exploits illegal immigration and partly because the meaning isn’t as precise as it might be. In general, it means that local law enforcement in that jurisdiction won’t arrest undocumented residents merely for being undocumented and won’t help immigration officials go looking for targets. Many law enforcement agencies support the designation because they know that undocumented crime victims are reluctant to report crimes for fear of deportation and that crime witnesses who happen to be undocumented are reluctant to cooperate for the same reason.

Sanctuary status also generally means that the jurisdictions’ law enforcement agencies, or their jails, won’t automatically notify federal immigration officials when an undocumented resident is being released from custody. In cases of clearly dangerous inmates, however, local authorities often find ways to tip off the feds regardless of City Council resolutions to the contrary.

Things are changing, perhaps with remarkable speed, now that Donald Trump is in office. Sometime soon, federal immigration authorities will likely step up their efforts to track down people who are in this country illegally. Trump has signaled that local law enforcement agencies will be encouraged, or even required, to participate in the round-up. Those that don’t join in stand to lose some of their federal funding – assuming the Trump administration can actually figure out how to accomplish such a thing.

Which brings us to Salinas, where the City Council is scheduled Tuesday night to meet behind closed doors to discuss whether it should reconsider its recent vote to reject sanctuary status for their heavily Latino municipality.

The sanctuary city designation was voted down by a 4-3 count, with the majority arguing that they didn’t want to risk having the city lose federal grants – even at the risk of essentially outlawing a large slice of the city’s population. The president has threatened to withdraw federal funding for sanctuary cities. In California alone, there are about 40 sanctuary of them, and at last count, 46 of the 58 California counties had adopted sanctuary status, including Monterey and Santa Cruz counties.

I won’t get too worked up here about the closed-door part, at least not yet. The discussion is scheduled for executive session under the guise that it pertains to potential litigation. I suspect that someone in power will realize before the Tuesday session that the real reason to shut the public out of the discussion has to do with the political sensitivity of the subject, which makes the backroom nature of the discussion  illegal.

(The discussion was scheduled at the request of Councilman Tony Villegas, one of four council members who voted against sanctuary status, which was beaten back by a 4-3 vote. Because the council action upset a large share of the community, Villegas has called for a revote, which creates issues of parliamentary procedure. City officials say what to do next needs to be hashed out in private to avoid embarrassing anyone. As reasons go, that’s one of the worst.)

Voting for sanctuary city status were Tony Barrera, Gloria De La Rosa and council newcomer Scott Davis. Davis’ position is highly significant considering that he is a Monterey County sheriff’s deputy who, as a leader of the deputy sheriff’s union, provided heavy support for Sheriff Steve Bernal’s election campaign. Bernal announced early in his term that he would cooperate with federal immigration officials whenever possible.

Davis not only supported the sanctuary city motion; he made it, explaining that it was strongly supported by residents of his heavily Latino district.

When others on the council argue that sanctuary status could jeopardize as much as $20 million in federal grants annually, Davis notes that the resolution allows for the matter to be revisited if Trump’s threats turn real and he argues that losing the money wouldn’t be the end of the world. The federal grants amount to about 10 percent of the budget.

“What I would like to see is if the federal government is going to pull in purse strings and try to manipulate local communities, we don’t rely on federal grants,” he told the Monterey County Weekly last month. “How plausible that is remains to be seen.”

Sanctuary city designations have not won unanimous support from law enforcement but they have received strong support. That’s because officers on the street say that when residents here illegally fear any contact with officialdom, it becomes almost impossible to obtain their cooperation when crime occurs.

The defining issue in Salinas is crime but the perpetrators, overwhelmingly, are native-born gang members. The homicide rate is one of the highest in California and, statistically, it is one of the unsafest places in the United States to be young and Latino — legal or illegal. Heavy gang involvement in much of the violence puts law enforcement at a huge disadvantage. Sending crime victims and witnesses underground for fear of deportation would only make things worse.

If the Salinas council does not reverse itself, it is telling the citizenry that a balanced budget is more important than fighting crime. And at some point, the message will become colder yet: Staying out of trouble and keeping your head down isn’t going to help when they come for you. The City Council should vote again and get it right this time.

{ 11 comments }
Share

IMG_8557 (1)

The Bernals, father and son, from Facebook

Monterey County’s personnel policies are pretty clear on the subject of nepotism.

“A county elected officer shall not employ his/her father, mother, brother, sister, spouse, or child, or the spouse of such relative within the department of such officer.”

Sheriff Steve Bernal, however, thinks an exception should be made for his family, specifically his son, who has completed police academy training and wants to be a deputy. A Monterey County deputy.

According to others in county government, Bernal began the process to hire his son only to be told by county personnel officials that it couldn’t be done because of the policy. He pushed for an exception, noting that county personnel rules do allow for relatives to be hired within departments headed by appointed officials. In those departments, relatives can be hired with the expressed permission of the Board of Supervisors.

“I’m not sure why the rules are different in different departments,” said one longtime county official who asked not to be identified because Bernal’s requests could be construed as confidential personnel matters. “But I do know that the board would never let an elected official go around hiring his family. And that’s probably especially true in the Sheriff’s Department.”

So here’s the upshot. After discussing the issue last week in executive session, the supervisors have asked the County Counsel’s Office to work on language that would prohibit nepotism across the board.

“The consideration right now is a uniform ban,” County Counsel Charles McKee said by email Tuesday.

Bernal has not responded to a request for comment.

{ 23 comments }
Share
31c935_709459992c724a56a088998a6d968663

Potter, right, enjoys the support of fellow Supervisor and former Judge John Phillips

Dave Potter’s transformation is nearly complete. About all that’s left for him to do is change his registration.

Throughout his political career, Potter, the 5th District Monterey County supervisor, has been a Democrat and has enjoyed considerable support from the party and its spinoffs. This year, however, the best he could do endorsement-wise was a co-endorsement from the local party, which also endorsed his opponent in the June election, Mary Adams.

Adams, meanwhile, also received the endorsements of party-related groups that used to endorse Potter, such as the Democratic Women of Monterey County. Adams also picked up endorsements from the Monterey County chapter of the Progressive Democrats of America and the Salinas Valley Democratic Club.

Demonstrating how far Potter has drifted away from the progressive crowd that once supported him, one of his latest mailers (SEE BELOW) includes lengthy endorsement messages from one of the GOP’s most outspoken local activists, Paul Bruno, and longtime Republican bigwig Jeff Davi.

Davi was California’s real estate commissioner under Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarznegger (though the mailer makes him out to be the current commissioner.) He is perhaps best known for his agency’s nearly complete failure to prosecute any real estate interests during the height of the mortgage crisis. Some will also remember that Davi was Potter’s opponent in his first campaign for a seat on the Board of Supervisors.

Bruno would have been a Ted Cruz delegate if his favored candidate had stayed in the presidential race. He says in the mailer that he is a fan of Potter’s as well because “for me, it is all about good government.” He goes on to say that Potter has “an impressive record on issues of importance to us – jobs, the economy and fiscal responsibility.” Look for specifics in the next mailer, perhaps.

Bruno, some will recall, is the fellow who dragged a chain out to a political demonstration on Highway 1. He was going to haul the protesters away until the CHP made him stop. He’s also the fellow whose company, Monterey Peninsula Engineering, seems to have a lock on Cal Am pipeline work.

Also pictured in the same flyer is Potter endorser Steve Bernal, the young sheriff of Monterey County, also a proud Republican.

In his campaigns of old, Potter touted endorsements from the Sierra Club, Democratic legislators Bill Monning and Mark Stone. Not this time. His flyers of old included kind words from LandWatch activists. Not this time.

Clearly the mailer featuring Bruno, Davi and Bernal was tailored to Republican households in the district – Monterey, Carmel, Pacific Grove, Carmel Valley, Big Sur and the Highway 68 corridor – so it makes sense that he emphasizes the economy and public safety rather than the environment and social issues. The big headline on the mailer, featuring a photo of Bixby Bridge, is “Bridging the divide,” but the mailer never goes on to explain what divide he means.

There is another mailer, of course, for Democratic households. In it, Potter is still in favor of attracting jobs and economic growth, but in this version he wants to do that “without threatening the quality of life that makes us unique.” (By omitting that caution from the GOP version, is he telling his Republican constituents that he’s OK with threatening the quality of life?)

In the GOP version, he’s all about growth and jobs. In the Democratic version, “He’s said no to bad development projects that poorly impact our water supply and traffic.” In the GOP version, he doesn’t mention the environment. Not at all.

In both versions, he lists a number of organizations endorsing him this time around. They include:

That last one is particularly interesting. Not unexpected, but interesting. The Salinas Valley Leadership Group was formed primarily by contractor Don Chapin. Its board of directors includes Brian Finegan, the Salinas lawyer who specializes in representing real estate developers; architect Peter Kasavan, who helped design the proposed Salinas general plan element that calls for Salinas to expand onto prime farmland; and accountant Warren Wayland, who handles campaign reporting duties for most Republican candidates in the area.

Dues-paying members of the SVLG include Monterey Downs racetrack principals Brian Boudreau and Beth Palmer, Salinas promoter and bar owner David Drew, Monterey PR man David Armanasco, the head of the deeply troubled Alco Water System, and the builder and developer of the Ferrini Ranch development that Potter voted against after it became clear that it would win county approval regardless of his vote.

Potter’s mailer to both Democrat and GOP households mentions his endorsements from law enforcement unions. Oddly enough, the mailers to Democratic homes includes blurbs from his endorsements by the Monterey County Weekly and the Herald, but those aren’t mentioned in the mailers sent to Republicans.

In the mailers to the Dems, Potter touts his endorsement by a group called Evolve California, which also endorsed Adams. He doesn’t mention Evolve in the GOP version, however. Perhaps that’s because in order to get the Evolve nod, he said he favored increasing taxes on the wealthy and increasing property taxes for businesses. Potter’s making a big deal in this campaign about being the experienced candidate. What he’s demonstrating with his mailers is that he has plenty of experience tailoring his message to his audience, no matter what he really thinks.

DSCN0391 (2)

{ 19 comments }
Share

Hand holding out a stack of money tied to the end of a stick for briberyBetween them, Central Coast congressional candidates Casey Lucius and Jimmy Panetta have raised more than $725,000 so far to propel their campaigns, thanks in no small part to the generosity of investment bankers.

Several donors identifying themselves as venture capitalists, fund managers or investment bankers made the maximum contribution of $5,400 to the candidates, with most favoring  Democrat Jimmy Panetta but several opting to help the Republican underdog, Lucius.

Under federal election rules, the maximum contribution from an individual is $2,700 but that individual can double up by writing one $2,700 check for the June primary election and another for the November general election.

The latest campaign disclosure forms also show that Panetta, son of former Congressman/CIA Director/Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, has raised $563,000 and is also receiving considerable help from the congressional crowd, including several members who worked with his father. They include Jim Costa, Tony Coelho, Steny Hoyer, Vic Fazio, Marty Russo, Bud Cramer, Dennis Cardoza and Zoe Lofgren as well as the lobbyist wife of former Sen. Tom Daschle.

Panetta, a prosecutor for the Monterey County District Attorney’s Office, also picked up a fair measure of support from Monterey County’s budding marijuana industry. He received $1,420 from lawyer Jeff Gilles, whose firm specializes in representing marijuana interests, $1,500 from medical marijuana advocate Valentia Piccinini, $1,000 from commercial pot grower Mike Hackett and a contribution of free or discounted office space from Mike Bitar, who puts together investment syndicates for marijuana-related ventures.

(Incidentally, Bitar is a host of a fund-raising event tonight for Monterey County Supervisor Dave Potter. It starts at 5:30 p.m. at the Estrada Adobe, 470 Tyler St., Monterey.)

Attorney James Panetta in court on July 25, 2013. (Vern Fisher/Monterey County Herald)Panetta is the obvious favorite because of the Panetta name and the Democratic leanings of the 20th Congressional District, now represented by the retiring Sam Farr, D-Carmel. But Lucius, a Pacific Grove city councilwoman, has raised some $162,000, the most ever raised by a GOP candidate in the district, and has impressed a serious slice of the electorate with her knowledge of international affairs and defense matters.  She is a former professor of national security for the U.S. Naval War College, the Naval Postgraduate School and other schools, a former naval intelligence officer and operations assistant to the U.S. ambassador to Hanoi.

Her largest contributions were $5,400 apiece from Tiburon investment banker Robert Hofeditz, venture capitalist Lloyd Alexander of San Francisco and Palo Alto asset manager Franklin P. Johnson of Palo Alto.

She received $2,700 from Charles Munger Jr. of Palo Alto, the California GOP’s biggest benefactor in recent years. Munger has contributed millions annually over the past several years, often targeting female and Latino candidates for help.

cbkmE29VAside from those contributions, Lucius has received mostly local money, including $2,000 from contractor Don Chapin, $1,000 from Margaret Duflock, who almost single-handedly financed the successful sheriff’s campaign of her son-in-law, Steve Bernal, and $500 from Salinas entrepreneur David Drew.

In addition to the investment bankers on the list, Panetta reported local contributions totaling $10,800 from the Antle farming family, $10,800 from the family of beer distributor George Couch, $10,000 from broadcasting executive David Benjamin and his wife, medical researcher Laurie Benjamin, and $8,100 from the Ted Balestreri family. He also picked up $500 from the girlfriend of local GOP stalwart Paul Bruno.

{ 16 comments }
Share

A piggy bank with the retirement fund theme on the sideUPDATED WITH INFO ON NEW UNDERSHERIFF

When Monterey County Sheriff Steve Bernal hired his friend Galen Bohner as his undersheriff a year ago, he said he knew he was the right guy because of his long resume’ and some intangibles.

“I know I can trust and count on him to get the job done — and he’ll be honest with me,” Bernal said at the time. He was so taken with Bohner that he persuaded the Monterey County Board of Supervisors to re-establish the long-vacant undersheriff position to accommodate the hire and to allow him to bring Bohner in at the top of the scale, some $208,000 in annual salary, plus benefits.

Never mind that Bohner was nearing retirement age for law enforcement officials in California, 50, or that as a lieutenant in his previous job with the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department he was skipping over several links on the chain of command.

How did it work out? OK for as long as it lasted. Bohner’s gone now, retired after less than a year in Monterey County. His retirement was announced last month along with the second retirement of Chief Deputy Tracy Brown. Brown had retired from the Sheriff’s Department in 2011 but was named to the department’s No. 3 spot shortly after  Bernal’s upset election of incumbent Scott Miller.

Though Bohner’s replacement, Michael Moore, won’t be retirement eligible until 2020, it appears that some key positions  in the Sheriff’s Department may have become essentially temporary jobs to be filled by those wishing to boost their pensions. It is a common practice in California and it’s known as pension spiking. Significant pay raises in the employee’s final three years of work can dramatically increase pension benefits and so can allowing the employee to receive credit for unused vacation or sick leave. The state Controller’s Office calculated in 2014 that the practice could cost state taxpayers just under $800 million over the next 20 years. Efforts to reform the system to prevent spiking have been underway for several years but most reform measures are being applied only to public employees just joining the work force.

Under San Bernardino County’s salary schedule, the most Bohner could have been making as a lieutenant was $127,000.  A spokesman for CalPERS,  the state retirement system, said his actual retirement benefit has not been calculated yet but he estimated that by retiring as undersheriff rather than lieutenant, Bohner would likely receive at least an additional $20,000-$30,000  in retirement pay annually.

Attempts to reach Bohner for comment have been unsuccessful and both Brown and Bernal have failed to respond to requests for comment.

The Partisan’s question for Bernal was, and is, whether he plans to do anything in the future to ensure that top positions in his administration will not be used as pension-spiking tools. Will he ask his appointees to formally or informally agree to remain on board for two years, three years or more?

We did not ask but perhaps should have how he feels about what he said a year ago: “I know I can trust and count on him to get the job done.”

Bohner and Bernal didn’t invent pension spiking, of course. It is a common problem throughout the state, especially in law enforcement ranks, where employees are able to retire at age 50 and receive 3 percent of their final salary for each year employed. Someone making $200,000 after 25 years service, for instance, would receive an annual pension of $150,000. You may have noticed how many California cities seem to be hiring new fire chiefs every year or so. That’s all about pension spiking.

In my email to Bernal seeking comment, I mentioned an old friend of mine, a high-ranking official in the sheriff’s department in another California county. Under California’s retirement system, he could have retired at more than 90 percent of his salary 20 years ago, but he’s still working. He once explained that he had worked hard and long to get to the position he is in, one that enables him to help protect the public, and he couldn’t imagine leaving for financial reasons. I wanted to know if Bernal might want to look for more people like that.

{ 14 comments }
Share

thai boxingJUNE ELECTION TO HAVE IMPORTANT LOCAL IMPACT

If you like your politics rough, you may enjoy the classic contest shaping up between Monterey County Supervisor Jane Parker and former Salinas Mayor Dennis Donohue for the right to represent District 4, which takes in Seaside, Marina and some of Salinas.

New campaign expenditure reports show that Donohue has tapped into his colleagues from agribusiness, picking up $20,000 checks from some of the Salinas Valley heavy hitters. The reports also show that Donohue has been working with two campaign management firms with reputations for sharp-elbow tactics. One of them, Pivotal Campaign Services, features Christian Schneider, who teamed with local Brandon Gesicki last year to run the below-the-belt campaign that dislodged Sheriff Scott Miller and replaced him with under-qualified Steve Bernal.

Donohue also has been paying for advice from Robert Dempsey, who in just two years went from being executive director of the state Democratic Parties in Vermont, North Carolina and Virginia to freelance campaign manager. On this coast, he is best known for his coaching of San Diego Congressman Scott Peters, who rode to a 2014 victory over a Tea Party-backed challenger in a campaign that is considered one of the nastiest in San Diego history, which is saying something.

robertdempseyedt

Donohue campaign consultant Robert Dempsey

Donohue is, like Parker, a Democrat but he fancies himself as a champion of commerce and innovation. The tone of his campaign was likely set at his formal announcement last month when Del Rey Oaks Mayor Jerry Edelen labeled Parker’s supporters as “radical zealots” intent on imposing a “primitive” lifestyle on the citizenry.

Parker supporters bristle at the description, but she does have the environmental vote sewn up. In her two board terms, she often has been the lone vote against major development proposals, most of which have featured glaring deficiencies such as inadequate water supplies.  Supervisor Dave Potter, who is facing a big-league challenge from Mary Adams, has joined Parker on the losing side of some development votes in recent months but it appears to be campaign strategy rather than a genuine philosophical shift.

In terms of political style, the candidates are opposites as well. Parker is quiet and studious, conscientiously reading the voluminous staff reports that often go unopened on the desks of some of her board colleagues. Donohue is boisterous and even boastful, full of ideas but not necessarily the means to carry them through. He has been heavily involved in produce sales and marketing most of his life.

In the money-collection period that ended in December, Donohue picked up just over $100,000, putting his total at $164,000. Big spenders in his camp, at $20,000 apiece, were Rick Antle of the Tanimura & Antle produce concern,  Newstar Fresh Foods, Nunes Co. and, of course, the Salinas Valley Leadership Group. That is the political action committee put together by contractor Don Chapin to pursue a pro-development agenda at every level of government. Not far behind was Church Brothers, another large agri-biz concern, at $15,000.

While Donohue was receiving his $100,000, Parker was picking up $34,900, but her campaign treasury stood at $147,000, including some loans.

Her biggest contributor for the period at $9,250 was Shirley Devol of Carmel, who lists her occupation as consultant. Her late husband, Kenneth, was a journalism professor. Others writing sizable checks to the Parker campaign were women’s rights activist Margaret Schink, $2,500; the Democratic Women of Monterey County, $2,000; Harriet Mitteldorf and school counselor Doreen Gray, $1,500 apiece; and Monterey neighborhood activist Mike Dawson, physicist David Fried, Ann Fitzpatrick of Salinas, Lowel Figen, George Thomas and art dealer Susan Schlumberger, $1,000 apiece.

Other notable contributors to Parker were state Sen. Bill Monning, $274, and Peninsula water activist George Riley, $224.

Parker’s campaign advisers, according to the filings, are the Lew Edwards Group in Oakland and community activist Elizabeth Panetta.  Lew Edwards principal Catherine Lew has managed numerous campaigns up and down California.

Responses to this and other pieces in the Partisan are encouraged. Publication of reader comments, and the pieces themselves, do not constitute any endorsement of the positions presented. The Partisan greatly prefers accurately attributed comments that avoid personal attacks.

{ 11 comments }
Share

Mexico refugee illegal immigration border migrant crisis economy finance war business.According to the Monterey County Sheriff’s Department, Brigido Hernandez was arrested by sheriff’s deputies on charges of disorderly conduct and drug possession last Sept. 7.

But not really.

Upon further reflection, the Sheriff’s Department says Brigido Hernandez is not Brigido Hernandez, but instead is Nazario Arguello Rodriguez, who was arrested by sheriff’s deputies on Sept. 28 on charges of manufacturing counterfeit goods.

But, strike that. The Sheriff’s Department says Nazario Arguello Rodriguez is really Juan Tentle Ortiz, who wasn’t arrested by sheriff’s deputies. Instead, he made it to the Monterey County Jail by way of the Los Angeles County Jail for reasons apparently unknown, at least unknown to the Monterey County Sheriff’s Department.

What is known about Brigido Hernandez/Juan Tentle Ortiz is that he/they was/were turned over to federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials late last year after Sheriff Steve Bernal reversed longstanding county policy and invited immigration authorities to set up shop in the jail.

The identities of Hernandez and Ortiz, and numerous others, became an issue after the Partisan made a public records request for information on him/them and a number of other former Monterey County Jail inmates who had been turned over to ICE for deportation.

The public information request was prompted by a Nov. 29 opinion piece written for the Monterey Herald by Michael Moore, chief deputy of the sheriff’s corrections bureau. In his column, Moore wrote that between Aug. 14 and late November 140 jail inmates had been found to have had previous convictions that qualified them for deportation via ICE.

He elaborated somewhat, saying they all met the federal criteria under Priority 1 status, meaning they had prior felony convictions and street gang affiliation, or Priority 2 status, meaning they had at least one serious misdemeanor conviction or three less significant misdemeanor convictions.

A spreadsheet provided by the Sheriff’s Department listed 160 arrests. In 42 of those cases, the only charge listed was drunken driving. In several other cases, men arrested for drunken driving also were accused of violating probation, an indication of at least some criminal history. There were, of course, numerous arrests on more serious charges including domestic violation, battery and hit and run but there also were arrests in which the only recorded charges were prostitution and providing false information to authorities. In most cases, the inmates turned over to ICE had been arrested but not convicted of any current charges.

In his Herald article, Moore mentioned that one inmate turned over to ICE was a Castroville gang member who had been arrested for murder and drunken driving. The Partisan made inquiry into details on that suspect, largely because it seemed odd that someone wanted on a murder charge would have been turned over to immigration officials rather than to authorities where the murder charge had been filed. It turned out to be another case of mistaken identity. The fellow was facing a drunken driving charge but not a murder charge.  Both his nationality and immigration status could not be determined this week.

In most cases, it is impossible for someone outside law enforcement to verify whether someone qualifies for either Priority 1 or 2 status because arrest records for previous incarcerations are considered confidential in California. Public court records would provide answers in some cases but that would require person-by-person searches in dozens or hundreds of courthouses.

“Verifying identities is one of the biggest challenges we face, every day,” said a local police official who asked not to be identified for fear of alienating the Sheriff’s Department. “But you would think they would get the names and basic data right before handing over information like that. I hope that they got the info right before they handed the people over, but I presume they did.”

A spot check of other inmates turned up discrepancies in the dates of arrest but no obvious mix-ups of identities.

The arrest that put Joel Dorante Cruz into the hands of immigration officials involved public drunkenness in a Seaside alley in September.

Ricardo Lopez’s arrest by Sand City police was for vandalism, loitering and being under the influence.

Maria Ortiz Cortez was arrested by Salinas police for shoplifting. The arrest was either Sept. 30 or several weeks earlier, depending on which department you talk to.

The Partisan’s inquiry hardly amounts to a scientific sampling but it did turn up  a string of discrepancies serious enough to suggest additional attention should be put into an examination of how the Sheriff’s Department is processing inmates suspected of being in the country illegally. Immigration activists and others criticize law enforcement agencies such as the Sheriff’s Department that routinely provide ICE with access to inmates. They and some law enforcement officials maintain that fear of deportation prevents many undocumented aliens from cooperating with law enforcement, testifying in court or even reporting crimes. On Jan. 5, the Partisan requested a copy of the sheriff’s written policies on immigration holds and its interaction with ICE but there has been no response.

{ 20 comments }
Share
Microsoft Word - 08062015 Sheriffs Photo.docx

Monterey County Sheriff Steve Bernal

If there is an uptick in crime in the unincorporated territory around Carmel, it won’t be a result of Sheriff Steve Bernal taking 18 deputies off the streets, or at least not in the sheriff’s opinion. Nope. It will be the fault of Carmel city administrator Doug Schmitz for alerting the criminal element, or at least that’s what the sheriff is suggesting.

That’s what the young sheriff had to say in an email (see below) responding to an email (see below) in which Schmitz raised his concerns about how the sheriff’s redeployment of resources could leave parts of the Carmel area unprotected, requiring Carmel police officers to drive into county territory at times in the wee hours. Some 18 deputies were reassigned to jail duty, largely to reduce overtime expenses in the crowded facility, leaving an early morning void in unincorporated Carmel as well as Pebble Beach and Carmel Highlands.

The exchange between Schmitz and Bernal was first reported in the Carmel Pine Cone but it bears repeating here because it provides a fresh clue about how Bernal responds to criticism. He has had a bit of a honeymoon since taking office at the start of the year but criticism comes with the job and it’s worrisome to consider how he might react when the going gets tougher.

The dust-up with Carmel comes as Bernal is still under the spotlight for inviting immigration officials to set up shop at the jail in August. He provided assurances that his office is interested only in assisting in the deportation of serious criminals but other officials say there are signs that minor offenders have been turned over to the feds in violation of state law.

As for the email exchange, if Bernal was hoping to find common ground with the Carmel administrator, he got off to a shaky start: “After receiving your correspondence dated October 15, 2015, I felt I should respond in order to educate you on common police procedure and protocol.” He then went on to tell the veteran city official nothing he didn’t already know about how police agencies routinely assist one another when their jurisdictions abut.

“When we instituted the current staffing reductions (or new scheme in your words) my office did not at ANY TIME ask your agency to backfill any of our gaps in patrol coverage,” Bernal wrote, forgetting for the moment that his office had not even notified Peninsula officials about the change.

After that weak start, Bernal stumbled some more.

“On another note, I would like to thank you for getting word out to the entire peninsula that we were deploying reduced resources in the area on a temporary basis.  What this managed to do was spread rumor based half-truths, which in turn has caused trepidation for many people. We tried to minimize publicity about the staffing changes so the criminal element would not be tempted to concentrate their efforts in areas with reduced patrol coverage.  Unfortunately, that plan has now been thwarted since you chose to address this issue by sending out your correspondence, rather than picking up the phone and calling me.”

HERE ARE THE EMAILS. FIRST, SCHMITZ’S:

15 October 2015

Sheriff Bernal,

It has come to my attention that earlier this month a new deputy allocation plan was put in place, moving eighteen (18) officers from patrol to jail duty. I have heard from my Police managers that the impact from this plan is that unincorporated areas in the Carmel region usually have no patrolling Sheriff Deputies between approximately 2 am to 7 am. Any responding deputies to the Carmel unincorporated region originate from either Salinas or Castroville. Thus, as has happened three times during early mornings since the new plan became operative, the Sheriff’s Office is relying on the Carmel by the Sea Police Department to be the first responder to calls for service in unincorporated areas. There have also been several calls for the City Police to respond during afternoon hours because Sheriff Deputies were not in the area. Thus, City resources have been allocated to respond outside of our jurisdiction because of an insufficient Sheriff’s patrol presence in these areas.

Early on the morning of 9 October, the Carmel by the Sea dispatch center was asked to send an officer to a reported prowler on Rio Vista, located off Carmel Valley Road. This is outside of our jurisdiction. Carmel by the Sea deploys two Police officers during those early morning hours. For officer safety, both of our on-duty personnel were sent to the Rio Vista residence, leaving our community without law enforcement coverage.

We are not staffed to handle our city AND the unincorporated areas around Carmel by the Sea. I am convinced that our residents would be outraged if they knew they and their properties were not protected because we were having to cover for your Department’s new scheme regarding patrol reduction.

Do not expect or count on the Carmel by the Sea Police Department to backfill for your Department in calls to the unincorporated areas.

Douglas J. Schmitz

City Administrator

Carmel by the Sea

 

HERE IS BERNAL’S REPLY:

After receiving your correspondence dated October 15, 2015, I felt I should respond in order to educate you on common police procedure and protocol.

Over the years the Monterey County Sheriff’s Office has enjoyed a very professional and cooperative relationship with the Carmel by the Sea Police Department. Once in a while, a call for service is received and units are dispatched and the responding agency may not have an available unit, or the responding unit has an extended response time.   A watch commander may ask a neighboring agency to send a unit to assist until a unit is free to respond. This is common practice throughout the county.  There is no expectation assistance will be rendered.  The decision to respond rests solely with the respective agency.  Again, we do not expect, nor rely on your officers to respond to our calls for service.

When we instituted the current staffing reductions (or new scheme in your words) my office did not at ANY TIME ask your agency to backfill any of our gaps in patrol coverage. The two agencies continue to assist each other as we have always done, no more, no less.

Considering that the Monterey County Sheriff’s Office operates countywide, we are asked to assist other agencies within the county on a daily basis, which we continue to do. It is disturbing, for example, that you are not aware or fail to acknowledge that my deputies have assisted your department approximately 28 times over the last several months. In April of this year, we had a sergeant and several deputies on standby (on overtime) to assist your agency with an anticipated protest at the Carmel Mission. My Sheriff’s Emergency Assistance Team (S.E.A.T) assists your agency many times throughout the year.  Our K-9 units, Bomb Squad, Search and Rescue and SWAT teams are available to assist your agency at a moment’s notice.

I have a very good working relationship with your Police Chief, Mike Calhoun.  My Coastal Station Commander, Keith Wingo, has a healthy working relationship with Commander Tomasi. I believe members from both agencies from the top to bottom enjoy a very professional working relationship.

On another note, I would like to thank you for getting word out to the entire peninsula that we were deploying reduced resources in the area on a temporary basis.  What this managed to do was spread rumor based half-truths, which in turn has caused trepidation for many people. We tried to minimize publicityabout the staffing changes so the criminal element would not be tempted to concentrate their efforts in areas with reduced patrol coverage.  Unfortunately, that plan has now been thwarted since you chose to address this issue by sending out your correspondence, rather than picking up the phone and calling me.

In closing, I would like to thank members of your police department for their continued professional conduct and cooperation.

Sincerely,

Steve Bernal

Sheriff-Coroner

{ 28 comments }
Share

I read a piece in Politico the other day about how the Republican Party is shrinking, in part because Republicans tend to be older than Democrats, etc., and older people tend to die before younger people. The GOP leadership, being reasonably astute, undoubtedly recognizes the problem and is likely taking steps to address it. Among the first things it will take is to change the membership oath to no longer require newbies to pledge allegiance to Fox News, the Koch Brothers and Karl Rove.
announcement, conference or political campaign

Locally, the party is taking a different approach to build up its muscle. Classified advertising.

The Salinas-based campaign management firm of Paramount Consulting, also known as Andrew Russo, is running ads in the Craigslist employment section seeking Republican candidates for everything from school boards to the state Senate.

Russo doesn’t require an oath but potential candidates “must be pro-business and fiscally conservative.”

“Some record of prior community involvement (is) highly desirable.”

Paramount lists a long list of previous clients who made it into office, including Monterey County Sheriff Steve Bernal, Congressman Jeff Denham, Salinas school board members Jim Reavis and Lila Cann, former Monterey County Supervisor Judy Pennycook and former Monterey City Councilman Jeff Haferman. That is quite a list but that’s all I’m going say about that.

Also going the Craigslist route is the Monterey County Republican Party, which has been looking for an executive director for quite some time now. That might be because of the compensation. At first I thought it was a typo: $2,500 to $3,000 per month depending on experience. Seems to me that no self-respecting, Democrat-disrespecting Republican would take a job in that range. Maybe it’s a test.

Despite the puny pay, it’s a big job. There are funds to be raised, an office to manage, reporters to be dealt with, interns and volunteers to be supervised, Facebook pages to be fed and a board to be interacted with. The successful candidate has to be skilled in Microsoft Word, Excel, Access, DreamWeaver, Indesign, and Adobe Acrobat. Finally, he or she “should have a sense of humor.”

That last requirement is key. The executive director would be dealing with people such as Brandon Gesicki, who placed the ad, and businessman Paul Bruno, two of the most madcap merrymakers to ever try to stuff a ballot box for comic effect.

Brandon “Why Doesn’t Anyone Like Me” Gesicki is one of those campaign managers who will use every trick in the book, every type of deceptive advertising, phony front groups and various intimidation tactics and then tell you he is doing it to prevent the GOP from being taken over by unprincipled people.

Speaking of Gesicki, he’s also advertising on Craigslist for interns for his own office, Capitol Consulting.

He describes it as “an incredible opportunity for anyone wanting to break into public relations and politics.”

The positions are unpaid for three to six months but will turn into paid positions at some point. There is no mention of college credit but, hey, there might be a Republican president by the time the IRS comes around asking questions.

Gesicki says he is looking for someone with good technical skills but he doesn’t mention anything about working on a web site, which is kind of surprising considering that his company’s website is still soliciting clients for the 2013 election and doesn’t include last year’s sheriff’s race as one of his success stories.

On his website, he does make it clear, though, that politics is a “full contact sport” and that “winning is everything.” The part about public service and philosophy is missing from the pages, but that’s merely an oversight. There is a section for  testimonials and I’m sure it will be very interesting when it is no longer  “under construction.”

Come to think of it, maybe I should apply, if not for an internship, possibly the exec director’s job. I have a sense of humor, or at least I did before I became old enough to be a Republican.

{ 8 comments }
Share

3d people - man, people with a sheriff badge. PolicemanThe city of Monterey appointed an interim police chief Tuesday and, from all appearances, he is a strong candidate to replace retiring Chief Phil Penko on a permanent basis.

Monterey County officials, and Monterey County voters, can receive a valuable lesson by watching the appointment process, which beats the hell out of the process the county uses to pick a sheriff.

The interim chief is Dave Hober, who was named deputy chief in February after 25 years with the San Jose Police Department.

In San Jose, Hober’s last assignment was to oversee field operations, including patrol, and to manage a $197 million budget. He worked his way up through the ranks after earning a political science degree from San Jose State University and graduate degrees in criminal justice administration and public administration.

When he left San Jose, the San Jose Mercury News called him “a well-regarded leader known for his eloquence in explaining police procedures and tactics in an accessible way, most recently shouldering the formidable task of collecting public input on potential police use of a drone.”

Hober also was the face of the department when the decision was made to eliminate an armored vehicle that had stirred concern in the community.

Another point in Hober’s favor was that when he was named deputy chief, he was the choice of Penko, an exceptionally capable and thoughtful leader who had spent his entire law enforcement career in Monterey and who understands the community as well as anyone. His latest appointment was by the city manager, who previously was the city’s personnel manager.

B9317223343Z.1_20150504152018_000_GFFAMJQ5O.1-0

Interim Monterey Police Chief Dave Hober

Compare this process with the recent election that created new leadership for the Monterey County Sheriff’s Department, new leadership in the form of untested, untrained and underqualified Steve Bernal, a former deputy who may or may not be up to the task. The point here is not the result as much as the process. The county’s top law enforcement official was picked as the result of a campaign that caused extreme bitterness and division within the department and that featured the expenditure of hundreds of thousands of dollars, much of it Bernal family money, money primarily used to buy negative and often misleading advertising.

Philosophically, I favor elections over appointments except in certain cases. I don’t think it generally makes much sense for voters to pick people for highly technical jobs such as county assessor or coroner. I’d rather that personnel specialists and a locally elected body such as a board of supervisors make those decisions. Once upon a time I favored elections for sheriff. Not any more.

In the old days, before sheriff’s race became big-money affairs, elections were logical. Back then, the population was small enough and voters usually could use reputation and word of mouth to choose the better candidate. These days, however, the Republican Party locally has made local elections into a blood sport and somehow the electorate doesn’t hold even the most dishonest campaign tactics against the hopefuls. I, for one, have a hard time trusting a successful candidate who used lies and deception to win.

There’s also the issue of the influence likely to be extended to those who supported the winning candidate. Do they get a break when they’re pulled over for erratic driving? Do they get first crack at jail contracts? Do they get concealed weapon permits when they don’t really need protection for anything worse than paper cuts?

Even if Bernal proves his critics wrong and turns out to be a fine sheriff, Monterey County should take some of the politics out of law enforcement and professionalize the process. There is no question the interim chief in Monterey is qualified. Should we have to wonder about his counterpart at the county level?

{ 14 comments }
Share

I couldn’t immediately watch the video of the South Carolina police officer fatally shooting the running man. Or watch it more than once.

Same thing for the video released by Tulsa police that shows officers grappling with a man just shot mistakenly by a 73-year-old reserve deputy who fired his pistol rather than his Taser. The dying man said he couldn’t breathe, and one officer holding him spit out, “Fuck your breath.”

Then there was the beat-down video captured from the sky, which was administered by a pack of San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputies on a man apparently surrendering after a long desert chase.

Criminal city background

These most-recent videos — all damning against folks trusted to protect and serve — are part of a collection seemingly growing astronomically since the 1992 Rodney King freeway beating, two subsequent police officer prosecutions and a deadly Los Angeles riot.

They raise heart-breaking questions about race, institutional state power and basic humanity. Too often they are sloughed off with phrases like “just follow orders,” “shouldn’t have run,” or “he had a long record.”

You read about these cases and invariably hear from attorneys for the victim’s family, police officials promising thorough investigations, and anonymous pro-cop voices on social media doing all they can to denigrate the dead.

I wonder what rank-and-file cops and other officers are thinking behind their blue wall.

For instance, what’s Monterey County Undersheriff Gahlen Bohner’s take on the Apple Valley suspect’s beating in the High Desert? Bohner was with the San Bernardino sheriff’s office — also under fire from rights groups for jail inmate abuse and excessive Taser use — for years before getting his $205,000 sinecure as Monterey County Sheriff Steve Bernal’s number two officer.

I wouldn’t expect more than the standard no-comment-pending-investigation, or a “I don’t want to comment on another agency.”

I did get a feel the other day for one cop’s thoughts on the South Carolina shooting in which a white officer fired eight times at a black man running away from a traffic stop.

I had joined two men I didn’t know to play a few holes of golf with them. Their conversation turned to the South Carolina shooting. I realized the younger man was a cop, his older friend wasn’t. I caught parts of their easy-going conversation as we walked.

Said the cop, “I don’t know what to think, but they are already convicting the cop.”

His friend disagreed, saying the whole thing was wrong.

Somehow that led the younger man to tell a story about stopping some black men whose car matched a description of a car used in a local armed robbery. I couldn’t hear the whole narrative, but caught the crux of the young man’s story.

Seems he and his fellow officers had the black men out their car with their hands up. One of the detained men kept trying to lower his arms, and the officers kept ordering him to keep them up. Finally he said, “My arms are getting tired,” and just let them fall, One of the young man’s partners fired his Taser, and the stun gun worked very well, dishing out pain.

The young man seemed boastful, as if the story contained some core truth about police, following orders, a suspect’s race, and something else — sadly enough — that struck him as funny. Cop humor.

“But they weren’t the robbers,” the older man said seriously. “Yeah, they weren’t,” the young man said. Then they started talking about something else.

I pass along the anecdote, not to condemn the young cop or to praise his buddy. But to share it. Just to keep the discussion going, because it must keep going. Pat phrases like “follow orders” don’t begin to answer vital questions about how police and communities interact in our country.

Just a few of those questions:

— Why can’t the most powerful nation in the world keep an accurate count of police-related shootings involving deaths and serious injuries?

— What do current officers think about the perception that police work increasingly is akin to military occupation in parts of the country?

— Why aren’t police unions racing to demand body cameras to show citizens the good work done by the majority of cops, and the bad work done by, hopefully, a few?

— Given the outcry against police agencies using military-style vehicles, should we also ask whether some officers, shaped by wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, have carried war-zone mindsets back home to their police jobs?

There’s no question this firearm-saturated country needs good, professional police officers.

The job is tougher than ever. It’s always been dangerous. There are bad guys out there. But there are also bad guys within the ranks, and good cops should be after them both.

{ 12 comments }
Share

1782068_751687911586152_8569243377802927373_n 2In the new world of rapid-fire, damn-the-facts journalism, Jeffrey Hunter Phillips got a scoop of sorts this week. He got it wrong but he was close, and that’s what matters in the new world of journalism.

Phillips, one of new Sheriff Steve Bernal’s more shadowy supporters, is best known for his You Tube videos that tend to relate to crime and punishment, though it isn’t always entirely clear. (For the entire series, entertaining if slightly ominous, go to You Tube and search for TheKeffeeKlatsch.com.)

His scooplet consisted of messages to various news outlets this week informing them that former Sheriff Scott Miller had filed a worker compensation claim for stress. Miller confirms he did indeed file a comp claim before leaving office but for repetitive strain injury, also known as carpal tunnel syndrome. He says it may require surgery.

“I have never filed a job-related stress claim nor do I have any plans to do so,” Miller said. “The only injury-related claim I have filed in the past twenty years is related to a right wrist and shoulder injury apparently related to a repetitive motion injury that may require treatment.

“Information related to worker compensation claims becomes public record at some point in the process, however I don’t believe this information is publicly available yet. Regardless, any assertion that I have filed a stress-related claim is unfounded and slanderous.”

Stress or carpal tunnel? In the new world of journalism, details don’t much matter.Still, it is newsworthy, at least to some degree, which is why this is being written. Miller’s predecessor, Mike Kanalakis, filed a worker compensation claim shortly after being defeated by Miller, and it received a fair amount of news coverage. At the time, Kanalakis said he always encouraged his staff to file any legitimate claims. Kanalakis’ predecessor, Gordon Sonne, filed several. It is common practice within law enforcement, and it probably should not be, or at least it should not be significantly easier for law enforcement types to obtain worker comp benefits than it is for regular folks to obtain the same benefits.

Jeffrey Hunter Phillips, who sometimes uses other names, suggested it was only fair to publicize Miller’s claim because Kanalakis’ claim had been publicized. He mistakenly added that Miller had illegally alerted the media to the Kanalakis claim four years ago. It actually was a public record, but, again, details, schmetails.

In Kanalakis’ case, he claimed that during his last year as sheriff he was in so much pain from old injuries that he should not have been working. So apparently he was paid both for working and paid again for working in pain. The system does not make sense. Unless you’re an officer of the law, or a fire fighter.

By the way, journalists apparently were competing Tuesday to be the first to verify Jeffrey Hunter Phillips’ missive and it appears that KSBW’s Felix Cortez was the first to tweet the corrected info. The Partisan may or may not have been the first to blog about it. Weekly Editor Mary Duan said she would buy Felix a donut and coffee as a prize. We don’t expect a prize of any sort. We’re satisfied knowing that the public knows as much as Jeffrey Hunter Phillips and a fair bit more.

chiclet_p_50x87

{ 12 comments }
Share

Sheriff badgeIt took no time at all for Sheriff Steve Bernal’s fledgling administration to provide the Scott Miller camp with its first “I told you so” moment. In fact, Bernal hadn’t actually started when he declared that he would reverse six promotions that Miller had approved in his final week as Monterey County sheriff.

It turned out, as most knew it would, that the promotions of six deputies to sergeant had been handled appropriately and that Bernal had no authority to simply declare the six unpromoted. The are rules governing such things. It was a small victory for Miller and his supporters who had argued vigorously but vainly that Bernal simply doesn’t have the experience needed to lead a department of 400-plus law enforcement professionals.

But rather than hope for additional opportunities to be proved right, the Partisan is hoping that Bernal has learned some important lessons here and that this humbling experience has put in a new frame of mind. We’re hoping that he realizes soon that the people who got him where he is today will now be seeking their rewards, to the benefit of themselves and not the sheriff or his department.

Bernal’s decision to declare the promotions invalid was encouraged by the Deputy Sheriffs Association, the union that had worked tirelessly in support of his candidacy. If it did not occur to the new sheriff that leaders of the DSA wanted some of those promotions for themselves, let us hope that a lightbulb went off when the county personnel experts told Bernal he couldn’t do what he tried to do.

From within the department and without, Bernal surely is being peppered with suggestions and advice, and some of it is probably worthwhile. But he needs to know that most of the advice will come with a price and the suggestions will, for the most part, be self-serving. Because he had never been a manager before, he might not know that many subordinates who smile at the boss are not as kindly when the boss isn’t around. He may not know that all those invitations he receives these days are not a sign that he has suddenly become cool or popular.

Bernal will have the opportunity to appoint community members to advisory committees and such things as search and rescue squads, both real and honorary. He would be ill-advised to simply hand out appointments to those who contributed to his campaign. There are highly qualified people in the large group that did not contribute. He will be asked again and again to put his thumb on the process of approving concealed weapons. It is safe to say that a significant percentage of the South County ag types who supported his campaign would love to have licenses to carry the handguns they keep in their glove compartments. He will be told that the company that supplies linens or whatever to the jail supported Miller and needs to be replaced by a company headed by Republicans. The input will be voluminous and might seem helpful initially.

Bernal isn’t likely to see this article on his own. He isn’t yet a subscriber to the Partisan and we are not Facebook friends. But perhaps a mutual friend somewhere in the community will bring it to his attention. If so, we’ll capsulize the message here because we know he’s busy.  Steve: Don’t do anything without talking to the county personnel office first. Also, tell the County Counsel’s Office that you want the sharpest attorney there to be your legal adviser.

Bernal’s successful campaign against Sheriff Scott Miller was quite a scrap and there are many of us who remain irritated, or worse, by  the campaign techniques executed on Bernal’s behalf by his campaign management and the local Republican Party cabal. But the losing camp cannot claim any higher ground if we spend the next several months or longer simply sitting back and enjoying the gaffes. The Sheriff’s Department is a huge part of the local law enforcement establishment and bad or overly political decisions at the top can be dangerous for the community and everyone under Bernal’s command. If he listens too often to those whose goal is simply to get Republicans in office or who want to pass out get-out-of-jail cards to their friends, disasters loom.

Immediately upon Bernal’s victory, Monterey’s leading public relations practitioner, David Armanasco, volunteered his services to help the new sheriff with the transition. It may have been a nice thing to do but Bernal shouldn’t keep that relationship going any longer than necessary. The public information function for law enforcement agencies needs to be in-house and should be handled by sworn officers, the higher the rank the better. Having an outside consultant handle information or interview requests makes the process far too political.

Bernal quickly made several key appointments to his upper ranks and, to his credit, some of the chosen came from outside the department. That could prove wise because the appointees have significant experience. But if Bernal had appointed from within the department, he would have created several additional opportunities for promotion. Grumbling over that has already begun within the ranks and Bernal will learn soon that those who were quick to support his candidacy will be just as quick to turn on him when they feel they have been unfairly denied a chance to move up. He will learn soon, if he hasn’t already, that he can’t depend on political connections and friendships to help him sort out his complicated task. He has a big job to do and he needs the best help he can get.

The new sheriff in town also will have to break some of his campaign promises because if he doesn’t, the Sheriff’s Department will all but disintegrate. He promised deputies that there would be no change in overall scheduling practices without unanimous consent. In almost any organization, unanimity is an impossibility. He said deputies would be asked to volunteer for training opportunities but would not be forced into any. What if there are not enough volunteers for a specialized task. Will the task simply be abandoned?

Bernal has a big job. A week or so in, he may have some idea of just how big. Those who supported him during the race, and those who did not, should do what they can to help him succeed. The energy that people might have been put into undermining him would be put to better use wishing him well and working to convert the sheriff’s job into an appointive rather than an elected position.

chiclet_p_50x87

{ 8 comments }
Share

110_F_66851562_fFaspr2gJRZ649D8HnBiDZyATXAzuOcPI’m always asking myself what’s the end of the year without a news quiz. Actually, I stole this idea from the Fresno Bee. Give it a try and see how you do. And, yes, I do know that the questions should be numbered and the answers should be lettered, but I am remain a klutz when it comes to formatting anything, so I’ll make this my last formal apology of 2014.

A. Which of the following happened in 2014

  1. One of the four open investigations into officer-involved shootings in Salinas was completed
  2. The various Peninsula agencies agreed on a plan to increase groundwater storage and expand conservation efforts
  3. A sheriff’s deputy with no management experience was elected to head the county’s largest law enforcement agency

B. Which of these development projects moved ahead despite demonstrably inadequate water supplies:

  1. Monterey Downs
  2. Ferrini Ranch
  3. Corral de Tierra shopping center
  4. All of the above

C. GOP political consultant Brandon Gesicki

GOP campaign manager Brandon Gesicki

GOP campaign manager Brandon Gesicki

  1. Managed a principled campaign
  2. Told a chamber of commerce committee that his candidate’s opponent would soon be charged with a crime
  3. Became a campaign issue to the point that he had to pretend to leave the campaign

D. The Monterey Herald editorialized that

  1. Water should not be an issue when developments are proposed because no single development could exhaust the county’s entire water supply
  2. The Pebble Beach clambake golf tournament should be moved to summertime so better weather would attract more tourists
  3. Howard Gustafson and Ken Nishi were the best candidates for seats on the Marina Coast Water District board.

E. California Public Utilities Commission President Michael Peevey

  1. Was caught skinny dipping with the PG&E board of directors
  2. Told Southern California Edison shareholders that if they thought rates were too high, they should just discontinue their electrical service.
  3. Called victims of the San Bruno explosion “a bunch of crybabies.”
  4. Finally got the hell out of Dodge.

F. California American Water Co. spent more than $2 million on

  1. Defeating a public campaign to take over the business even though it claims to be losing money
  2. Brochures touting the company’s frugality
  3. Lunches with Michael Peevey

G. The proposed design of the Monterey conference center was compared to

  1. A post office, circa 1962.
  2. A dental office, circa 1972
  3. A visionary yet misunderstood monument to man’s inhumanity to man

H. In his book, Leon Panetta

  1. Disclosed that the CIA staff kept him in the dark about everything
  2. Revealed that he worked as a script adviser on Zero Dark Thirty
  3. Disclosed that it was Sylvia who found bin Laden
  4. Mentioned that he had wanted Al Pacino to play him in the movie, a young Al Pacino.
  5. None of the above.

I. The oil industry spent $2 million on

  1. Attempting to defeat a public campaign to prevent fracking in San Benito County even though the oil companies contend there is no fracking in San Benito County.
  2. Beautification of the Lost Hills oil reserve
  3. Brochures touting the industry’s environmental resolve

J. Lou Calcagno’s final act as Monterey County Supevisor was to

  1. To take Steve Collins  to lunch
  2. Give John Phillips’ home phone number to Tony Lombardo
  3. Pardon Dave Potter
  4. It’s a secret

Answers: A. (3). B. (4). C. (2 and 3). D. (2 and 3). E. (4). F. (1). G. (1 and 2). H. (5). I. (1). J. (4)

If you correctly answered all 10 questions, consider this an offer to come to work for the Partisan, especially if you have other income.

If you got more than six questions right, you’re a true newshound. You probably borrow your neighbor’s Herald occasionally and pick up the Weekly once in a while.

If you got two to five right, you probably know what comes on right after the KSBW news.

If you got none or one right, Peter Newman’s team at the local GOP would like to talk to you about running for office.

{ 20 comments }
Share

Proprietor’s note: To the surprise of many veteran political observers in Monterey County, sheriff’s deputy Steve Bernal upset the incumbent, Sheriff Scott Miller, in the Nov. 4 election. Residents of Monterey County are left with an unusually inexperienced young deputy to lead the largest law enforcement agency on the Central Coast, which has prompted some to call for taking the sheriff’s position out of electoral politics and making it subject to appointment. When asked by reporters to explain what happened and what it means for the county, Miller responded with this post mortem)

 **********

While many contributing factors appear to have influenced voters in the election for Monterey County sheriff, the results of the race can be traced, in large part, to two major factors unrelated to the qualifications of either candidate to hold the office: 1) strategic phone polling and 2) campaign contributions, in the form of special interest money and one very rich relative.

On a quiet evening last summer during the lull between the primary and general elections I received a phone call at home from a political research pollster working for the Bernal campaign. I was asked a series of questions all prefaced with the phrase: “Would you be more or less likely to vote for a candidate if you knew…?”

There were questions related to endorsements: ”Would you be more or less likely to vote for a candidate if they were endorsed by former Sheriff Kanalakis? Former Sheriff Gordon Sonne? Governor Jerry Brown?” There was a Bernal campaign favorite: “Would you be more or less likely to vote for Sheriff Miller if you knew there had been eleven claims of discrimination or harassment filed against him?

Sheriff Scott Miller

Sheriff Scott Miller

And perhaps the pivotal question and the pivotal moment in the 2014 campaign for sheriff: “Would you be more or less likely to vote for Sheriff Miller if you knew he had received a vote of no confidence from the deputy sheriff association?”

I asked the pollster if Sheriff Miller had actually received a vote of no confidence. The pollster ignored my question and repeated the one he had originally asked: “Would you be more or less likely to vote for Sheriff Miller if you knew he had received a vote of no confidence?” After several more attempts to clarify whether such a vote had actually taken place and several more rebuffs by the pollster, I gave my answer: “I would be MORE likely to vote for Sheriff Miller if I knew he had received a vote of no confidence.”

In actuality, I just wanted to move on to see what the rest of the questions were like. I mean, who in their right mind would actually be more likely to vote for a sheriff candidate who had received a vote of no confidence? Is that a condition or attribute that engenders confidence in a candidate for sheriff? Perhaps I’d be neutral on the issue if I had other information that would override the impact of a no confidence vote, but the pollster didn’t provide “neutral” as an option. It struck me that “less likely” was virtually assured of a response near 100%, unless you were the candidate in question.

Coincidentally, they were speaking to the candidate in question. I’m Sheriff Scott Miller. I thought at the time that I was really glad I hadn’t received a vote of no confidence. That would be powerful stuff. Good thing, I thought, that I hadn’t done a thing to merit such a vote.

This polling conversation took place months before I actually received a vote of no confidence from the Monterey County Deputy Sheriff Association (DSA). At the time of the phone call no one had mentioned the possibility of such a vote taking place. Even with the typical political murmuring taking place within the Sheriff’s Office during campaign season, everything seemed to be moving along reasonably well. Positive progress during my first term as sheriff had been steady and, in some cases, remarkable when compared to the work of previous sheriffs.

Most importantly, the lines of communication between the DSA and my administration were solidly in place. There were few, if any, complaints being voiced by the DSA leadership during our regular monthly meetings about any job-related issues under my control that weren’t already addressed or being addressed. Under my watch, training had doubled, special units had been restored, better equipment had been provided, staffing had been added and patrol deputies had been moved from fatiguing 12- hour shifts to 10-hour shifts. I had obtained funding to construct a critically needed jail expansion that would improve staff safety, funding that had been sought unsuccessfully by my predecessors. I had treated staff with respect, dignity and support and had participated in every department-sponsored social event to which I had been invited. In short, none of the conditions existed that normally lead to no confidence votes.

About two months after the phone poll, I heard a rumor that the DSA board was going to press the membership to conduct a no-confidence vote on me. (They had previously voted to endorse my opponent in the general election, Deputy Steve Bernal, in a secretive and equally dubious process). I learned the no-confidence vote movement was triggered at a DSA meeting attended by only 17 members of the 300-plus member DSA and, by special invitation, my opponent, Deputy Bernal, and one of his campaign handlers, Brandon Gesicki. According to individuals present, Bernal and Gesicki addressed the group for half an hour, encouraging them to conduct a vote of no confidence, advising them (based on the results of their phone polling) of the power such an action could have in the race for sheriff and of the relevance the DSA could regain by impacting the race. At the end of their presentation the members present voted 12 to 5 to hold such a vote.

I was never notified of the pending vote by DSA leadership. I was never given an opportunity to address the membership regarding the vote or provide a rebuttal to the one-sided, inflammatory and inaccurate information given to DSA voters in support of the vote, which was apparently scripted by the Bernal team. Points made as grounds for the no-confidence vote centered largely on actions, real and imagined, of my adult son and his friends, not on my actual performance as sheriff. I didn’t learn the specifics of what DSA members were being told until after the vote had concluded, when I read the information in a newspaper account.

Having heard that a vote of no confidence might be pending, I distributed an email to department employees reminding them of the many accomplishments we had achieved together during my term as sheriff, which amounted to three single-spaced pages of meaningful organizational improvements. As a result of my email I was threatened by the DSA board with legal action for “campaigning on duty;” not directly, but through a press release they and their attorneys issued to all media outlets. DSA leadership and their lawyers had morphed from a union-like organization interested in protecting the rights of their membership to an arm of the Bernal campaign. Not only was I denied the opportunity to address the allegations made in support of the vote of no confidence, I was threatened for distributing a generic list of achievements. They wanted to block any communication between the DSA membership and me, while they and Bernal’s team had unfettered access to them. This didn’t exactly amount to a democratic process or level playing field.

I was given no opportunity to have anyone from my side participate in monitoring the vote, which was purportedly done electronically. The votes were tabulated by the DSA president and his designees, who were already in my opponent’s camp. Ultimately the DSA president reported that, based on the secret vote conducted by him, approximately a third of the membership eligible to vote had voted to support the vote of no confidence. No mention was made that two-thirds of those eligible to vote either chose not to vote or voted to support me. Also not addressed was whether the vote actually qualified as an official vote under DSA bylaws, since the amount of votes received did not amount to a majority of eligible DSA voters, a contention that in 1998 helped propel detective Gordon Sonne into office as sheriff.

Regardless of the process used to obtain it, there can be no denying that the wielding of this “vote of no confidence” became a critical element in the campaign for sheriff. There was a top-of-the-fold headline in a local newspaper trumpeting the fact that there was going to be a no confidence vote, before the vote was actually conducted, followed by top-of-the-fold headlines following the vote. It became the centerpiece for every piece of campaign material coming from the Bernal camp from that point forward. A barrage of television commercials centered on the vote, (along with my alleged responsibility for all gang violence in the county, rising property crime rates and graffiti on the former Fort Ord). The Bernal message largely became the no confidence vote. Their message reflected the strategic direction of their phone polling.

Of course, such a message would have been limited in its effectiveness without the means to distribute it to the largely uninformed masses. Deputy Bernal, who couldn’t find the money to pay his monthly mortgage or car payments, managed to amass the largest campaign treasury to run for the Office of the Sheriff in the history of Monterey County. He bragged about raising $65,000 in one evening, actually suggesting at a forum that he could do the same to help fund any shortfalls in the Sheriff’s Office budget if he were elected, (such being his naiveté regarding the office and the budget process).

Much of his funding came by way of Margaret Duflock, a ranching and oil magnate, who is the mother-in-law of Bernal’s brother. She gave Bernal hundreds of thousands of dollars, via direct donations, loans and contributions to political action committees (PACS), which then steered the money to Bernal. She reportedly gave $25,000 to the DSA, which has usually been strapped for money, following its endorsement of Bernal and the no-confidence vote, as if to pay them for their actions. With her bottomless checkbook and ability to influence other donors, the Bernal campaign was able to run near-constant campaign attack ads on every local television station, day and night, seven days a week, throughout the month leading up to Election Day.

The lack of any limitations on campaign donations in Monterey County clearly facilitated the metamorphosis of a candidate who, by any objective measure, lacked the bona fides to serve as an executive or manager in any law enforcement organization in the United States, into sheriff-elect of the largest law enforcement agency on the Central Coast. In military terms, the Army private has managed to become the commanding general overnight. What I had diligently prepared for through education, training, experience and performance over the course of 38 years, Bernal achieved by attending Thanksgiving dinner with his brother’s mother-in-law. In other words, Bernal and his donors, with the assistance of the co-opted president of the Deputy Sheriff Association, were able to buy the Monterey County Office of the Sheriff as if it were a very expensive truckload of alfalfa hay.

Those of us who care about public safety in these parts should be troubled, not only with how this campaign was won, but with the troubling thought that this may now become the model as to how sheriffs in this county are elected going forward.

The timing was perfect for the type of campaign that relies on smoke screens and misdirection. Bernal’s handlers wisely kept the candidate sequestered from direct media access whenever possible. They cancelled his attendance at public forums after seeing how poorly he performed in them. They repeatedly made claims that were without merit and easily refutable, but who stepped up to question the veracity of these claims?

Our community’s historic fact-checkers–seasoned journalists with a thirst for the truth–have largely gone the way of the dinosaur. Daily coverage of the sheriff’s race was delegated largely to inexperienced reporters who often seemed to receive little guidance from editors who, in fairness, likely had more important things to do, like figuring out how to save their newspapers.

After months-long hesitation, the local daily newspapers finally came on board. The Monterey County Herald and Salinas Californian issued strong and unequivocal endorsements for my re-election in late September. (To their credit, Californian political columnist Jeff Mitchell, Mary Duan and her staff at the Monterey County Weekly and Royal Calkins of the Monterey Bay Partisan had it right from the beginning). The endorsements used phrases like “the choice for sheriff is so clear, even the Herald got this one right;” “thankfully, this choice is an easy one;” and “Bernal is unqualified to be sheriff.” Bernal’s campaign and his handlers were categorized in various press reports as “slimy,” and “liars.” Obviously, the results of this election leave us with questions as to how many voters actually still read daily newspapers and the overall impact of (late-arriving) editorial endorsements.

Oddly, the only real issue germane to my bid for re-election–my performance as sheriff–was virtually ignored by the press. Instead, I was battered almost daily by press releases from the Bernal camp over largely nonsensical, trivial and irrelevant issues. These press releases, which in years past would have been tossed in the trash can by discerning newspaper editors, were usually published on the top of the fold after I was asked for a comment. While I provided copies of my resume, future strategic plans and accomplishments as sheriff to local media, they seemed to prefer dealing in the raucous allegations fed to them by my opponent. This strategy skillfully distracted the public from the real issues.

Broadcast news was largely missing in action, save an excellent profile piece on both candidates by Felix Cortez of KSBW, which was so revealing and instructive of the contrast between candidates that we posted it on our campaign website. KCBA Fox News doesn’t broadcast a local version of the news anymore, using instead an Oakland-based news show. Their sister station, KION News, who does, never contacted me about the election until they asked for an urgent sound bite—at 10 PM on election night, after all the polls had closed. If they ever covered the race, it was without my participation.

(After being contacted recently by a reporter from KION looking for my reaction to the latest election update, I asked her if the station had made a conscious decision to avoid covering the sheriff’s race. She told me KION station management had decided not to cover any local races, other than the fracking measure in San Benito County, because of the impact fracking might eventually have on Monterey County.)

I’ve been accorded the respect of my peers in the ranks of Monterey County law enforcement executives, who twice elected me president of our county law chief’s group and who unanimously endorsed my campaign for reelection. They universally praise the level of teamwork we have enjoyed the past four years, particularly compared to the relationship they had with my predecessor. Our interaction with local, state and federal law enforcement agencies and the cities in Monterey County has never been better. I have superior working relationships with every elected official who holds any sway on county issues, from the governor to local mayors. Many of them are mourning the pending change of leadership to an individual they have never met.

But while many may consider me an effective law enforcement executive, I certainly wouldn’t be mistaken for a formidable campaign manager or campaigner, at least not based on the results of this race. I made several decisions early on in this campaign that I was determined to follow, win or lose, which ultimately figured in the outcome:

First, I was asked to register as a Republican by the local party godfather-figure. (I am registered as a “decline to state” voter). I was told if I would do so, the Monterey County Republican Party would endorse and support only me, even though two of the candidates running against me in the primary, including Bernal, were Republicans. I was told the party would do their best to talk the others into dropping out of the race. I was offered the campaign management services of Brandon Gesicki, who ultimately ended up working with Deputy Bernal. I declined the proposal, choosing instead to remain independent, thus motivating county Republicans to work against me throughout the campaign.

In retrospect, if I had registered as a Republican I may have won the race in the June primary, but I didn’t want to feel compromised by a group who didn’t care about my skills as sheriff, but solely my party affiliation. Strategically, accepting the invitation would have been the smart campaign move. Of course, I wasn’t thinking like a politician. I was thinking like a cop who didn’t want to be led by the nose.

Second, I was determined to run on my qualifications and accomplishments. I was determined not to run attack ads or conduct negative campaigning against my opponent. I focused on Bernal’s lack of qualifications and experience, but avoided attacking the many vulnerable areas of his personal life and those of his campaign team. I believed my accomplishments as sheriff were substantial enough to carry the day. If the public didn’t agree, that was their call, but I wasn’t going to sling mud.

I kept this commitment, although in retrospect attack ads would have likely been more effective. I wasn’t willing to win at all costs, not being a true politician.

Third, I was determined to spend no more on my campaign than I could raise from donors. During the campaign for sheriff in 2010 I spent $122,500 of my own funds. Raising campaign funds is more difficult for some than it is for others, particularly when you are running for the office of the chief law enforcement officer in the county and you refuse to take money from people who expect favors in return. That severely limits the pool of potential major donors. I mean, who gives a candidate for sheriff thousands of dollars because of their winning smile? In any event, it became evident to me early on that I’d never be able to compete with the half million dollars or so that Bernal raised from relatives and special interests without selling my soul. I wasn’t willing to pay that price. Ultimately I spent another $40,000 of my personal funds on this race. Instead of raising campaign funds the past four years while in office, I chose instead to put my effort into running the Sheriff’s Office. Strategically, raising campaign funds through the years would have been the smart political play. Starting with an empty campaign treasury versus a bottomless checkbook obviously made the task of running a vibrant campaign an uphill climb.

My purpose in writing this piece is an attempt to provide some insight from my perspective to those who seemed baffled as to how a deputy with no leadership or management experience, no formal education beyond high school, no job development of any kind beyond entry level deputy, can win an election over an experienced, educated and highly qualified incumbent who, by most objective accounts, had accomplished more in four years as sheriff than my four predecessors combined. I invite an objective examination of my term in office to see if others agree with that conclusion. Otherwise, I’ll leave my efforts to be judged by history.

I wish the best for the people of Monterey County, particularly those who will suffer as a result of this election. Individuals who supported my administration are already being threatened with removal and intimidation by the camp of the sheriff-elect. He has looked into the personnel records of excellent current employees specifically to see if they are on probation and has intimated he will fire them, regardless of their performance, so he can replace them with his cronies. Rumors are he wants to hire family members, though he would have to violate county policy to accomplish that. He will come into office beholden to a large number of special interests and large donors, along with the architects of his largely unexpected victory, their clients and the mysterious business PACs who materialized to donate thousands to him.

My successor is unlikely to continue the community outreach efforts I had undertaken with the supporters of jail inmates, immigrant rights advocates and small neighborhood groups of Spanish-speakers in Castroville, Chualar and Pajaro. He has never participated in the Community Alliance for Safety and Peace in Salinas, the Monterey County Gang Violence Program, or any other community-based organization in Monterey County. He declined to attend a forum held by LULAC, the League of United Latin American Citizens, and, to my knowledge, has never attended a meeting of any civil rights group in Monterey County.

The sheriff-elect may not yet even realize how much he doesn’t know about the current state of the Sheriff’s Office, having overlooked reality to instead maintain his focus on campaign rhetoric. During an initial press interview with (now that the pesky fracking issue has been decided) KION News, Bernal said he will kick his administration off by improving relationships with other county police departments and communities, opening lines of communication, and so forth. He has no idea how strongly those ties already exist, albeit with an administration that will be leaving. He says he will strengthen the existing gang task force, apparently unaware that the task force is already the largest such team in California outside of Los Angeles. He says he will establish a violent crimes unit, again unaware of the mission and capabilities already in place.

And he certainly doesn’t know how he’ll pay for any of his plans, having little familiarity managing budgets, household or otherwise. The future outlook of the Sheriff’s Office budget looks pretty grim in the coming years, with expenses constantly escalating and revenues stagnant. The fact that he has never supervised a single employee means his learning curve will be immense, now that he will be responsible for more than 420 public safety employees, He will find that his new reality isn’t taking an occasional crime report and patrolling the fields of southern Monterey County; it’s now litigation, risk management, policy development, municipal budget management, managing complex human resources issues, crisis management and strategic planning, domains he knows absolutely nothing about. With luck, he’ll have the wisdom to bring in a team of experts to handle these critical issues, but they aren’t growing on trees and even the best advisors require executive oversight so as not to run amok. For the sake of public safety in Monterey County, let’s hope he chooses wisely.

I’m grateful for having had the opportunity to serve as your sheriff. I’m proud to have been in the fraternity of law enforcement professionals for thirty-one years. I will miss the profession, but I’m confident I will find other meaningful pursuits to fill my time. I wish you all the best.

 

{ 35 comments }