I get all kinds of tidbits of information in from people. A lot of it I would love to use, but I just can’t verify it enough, or I get conflicting information, or I just can’t fill it out enough to make it big enough to put out here…yet. Sometimes though, threads and patterns emerge from these bits and pieces. They may mean nothing, but there is a saying: Where there is smoke, there is fire.
One of these patterns showing up over and over from multiple sources is the shuffling of dollars in the Sheriff’s Office. There is one rumor I’ve been able to semi-confirm that really bothers me: That budget money is being assigned to some special divisions at the top of the budget process, but disappearing at some point, resulting in certain functions within the Sheriff’s Office functioning under a “zero budget.” I dug this out when I was looking at her poorly thought-out K-9 program that continues to lose county money to law suits over the same budgetary issue — caring for the K-9s. So many suits at this point that it should be classified as willful negligence. Why is it cheaper to pay the handlers an hour of regular pay, daily, and only have them work 9 hours of their 10 hour shift than to pay some time of K-9 stipend? That means the office is losing 8 man-hours per handler every two weeks. And I hear there is yet another new canine program in the works… more to follow (hopefully not in the form of a 6th lawsuit).
But stories continue to roll in about money being shuffled through various bank accounts like a 3-card Monty game, the real costs of the helicopter and how much of it has been the costs due to the Sheriff’s “helicopter ride-along program.”
Then we have the AB109 money — there is still no clear information on how or if that money is being spent appropriately. Given prior posts here on this blog, this money may not be being used for the necessary training, increased security or other needs mandated by this program. Another rumor is the shuffling of inmate welfare funds which are supposed to be used exclusively for inmate programs, but these programs seem to be lacking the funding without good reason.
There are all kinds of fascinating stories about customizations of the “administrative vehicles” (high end audio systems and some even equipped with DVD entertainment package). Not to mention, while the deputies are out there in unreliable cars with excessive mileage, can some one explain why administrators are all getting brand new Dodge Chargers? These cars cost $26K and up. When they’re used for police work, they’re usually used as specialized interceptors. When is the last time a Captain chased some one down on the freeway to issue them a ticket? And would they dare, given that a percentage of a certain Assistant Sheriff’s time (aka salary) is dedicated to the high functioning need of reviewing as many patrol videos as possible to see if anyone dared to speed for *any* reason? How are the costs of high end vehicles justified when the SO is understaffed, under-equipped and increasingly under-trained? Personally, I see no reason these bureaucrats should be driving anything more than a Ford Focus or Dodge Dart — low costs sedans that suit low end commute needs, since they’re not supposed to even take these vehicles out of the county (are you listening to that, captains?), particularly for personal use. Oh, by the way, taxpayers are paying for their personal use gas as well.
I won’t even get into the information I get on various grant money for both equipment and positions. If there were ever to be a serious audit of what the Sheriff’s Office does (or doesn’t do) with grant money in some cases, I suspect the county of Santa Clara wouldn’t see a penny of grant money for a very long time.
I think the taxpayers have a right to transparency in government, and that includes their Sheriff’s Office. Time for a forensic audit from an *independent* auditor with no ties and affiliations to the Board of Supervisors or any other local politician.