Violation of the Public Trust

The Mercury News just dropped a bombshell tonight along with their editorial board chipping in as if they all suddenly work for a real newspaper.  No, I will not forget that the Murk had the opportunity and the reach to do the right thing during the election and they chickened out and gave us this.  But onward…

The Board of Supervisors is said to have contracted a firm for a secret, parallel investigation intended to mitigate litigation risks and to be kept secret from both the public and their blue ribbon commission.

No way in hell you’re going to tell me the sheriff had no part in this process, though the Mercury seems to leave that part out. I wonder how the FBI, already asking pointed questions about the sheriff and her work product, are going to view this effort to turn the blue ribbon commission into little more than a PR move for the public and possibly to throw them off and lead them to believe the sheriff and the county were actually going to do something.

Even as we’ve been standing here telling everyone that the supervisors and the sheriff can not be trusted to be transparent and honest, they have been spinning the wheels and talking out the other side of their mouths to the public.  Think about how deep the treachery goes here. Two supervisors sit on this commission — Cindy Chavez and Ken Yeager  — along with the sheriff.  What was their intent, to remain silent while they sat in this meeting and lie by omission?  This is their idea of integrity?  Transparency?  It seems so.

This is how the sheriff undermines her office on a regular basis, she tells people one thing and does something completely different behind their backs.  She tells the public one thing — we’re working on body camera policy, we’re reviewing policy, we did a great job on LaMar, DeAnza, Pott, Lehigh…etc., etc. — when reality is the complete opposite.  But what did a bunch of Keystone Cops really know, right?  Maybe next time the public sees people in law enforcement breaking the “thin blue line of silence” they should pay attention rather than pretend it’s not happening so there is no break in their “bad cop” rhetoric.

Finally, someone other than us has said having no one with jail operations experience is a deterrent to a successful commission.  Kelly Knapp of Prison Law Office was quick to kick back when Supervisor David Cortese tried to climb on Prison Law Office’s back and claim they supported the contractor hired for the secret investigation.  She quickly pointed out how little it mattered on a commission to review jail operations with no one who specializes in jail operations other than a single deputy who is a product of the current environment. Not to knock the value of Deputy Le, but what she adds is different, an inside of view of what is happening and the ability to confirm or counter information and perception as necessary.

This behavior didn’t start with this commission. This is calculated, seems to have been done seamlessly with the rest of their plans, and done without conscience. Clearly they are so used to their actions being ignored by the media that they never expected that the Mercury News would actually turn on them and print their antics.  That treason alone has to be devastating to the supervisors and the sheriff.

This incident shows exactly the level of collusion that we’ve been concerned about in the board protecting the sheriff from herself to the detriment of her office, her deputies, the public.  Ultimately it was Michael Tyree and Walter Roches who paid the price. Even with two people dead from the failures of administration, these people still are more worried about their political lives than doing the right thing.

This commission is fatally flawed in its composition as others have pointed out, and we have pointed out.  It is generated from and controlled by people who have an agenda that is not necessarily in line with fixing the problems at hand; problems that have endangered and even cost lives.  The public trust in this effort should be withheld until it can be shown to be an effort  with integrity and the full intent to find and resolve problems, not just chase down “bad cops” so the public cheers and ignores the flaws.  Ladoris Cordell needs to recognize her reputation is exactly that — chasing down bad cops. It’s what the public expected, it was the subject set on the center of the table with the approval of hearing all the complaints before actually investigating.  The entire commission, from the selected chair to the design seems intended to derail what should be the real purpose.

There is no way they could include someone who has experience actually reviewing and fixing jail operations — that might actually have kept the commission on the tracks it should be on.

You would think all this is bad enough, but it also reached our ears today that there has been a falling out between the sheriff and her County Counsel Representative, Cheryl Stevens. Rumor is there was a battle regarding the lobbying firm hired by County Exec. Jeff Smith to represent the sheriff’s office during the jail crisis.  It’s our understanding here that Cheryl Stevens is no longer representing or advising the Sheriff’s Office in any matters nor has there been any replacement at this point that we’re aware of.  We’ve been told that County Counsel may have ended all direct representation at the sheriff’s office as long as 2 weeks ago.

At this point there are so many things going wrong the sheriff may be in free fall, and those that have tied their political future to her may go down with her.

As the actions of those we elected sink in and we begin to understand all the implications of their intent and the possible outcomes of their actions had they remained under cover are a disturbing violation of public trust from those we elected and trusted to be honest with us.

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3 thoughts on “Violation of the Public Trust

  1. Dear Honorable Board of Supervisors,

    I feel compelled to tell you that I am deeply disappointed in what I read in the articles below: http://www.mercurynews.com/opinion/ci_29078208/mercury-news-editorial-santa-clara-countys- secret-jail.

    http://www.mercurynews.com/breaking-news/ci_29078054/santa-clara-county-jail-commission-co nsider-disbanding.

    While I understand your need to protect the County from litigation, I find it deeply disturbing that Judge Cordell was not informed about this action before she and other Blue Ribbon Commissioners agreed to volunteer their valuable time to sit on this badly needed commission.

    By omitting this vital information from Judge Cordell and her fellow Commissioners, I feel you have betrayed the very trust that I and the public have placed in you, and have violated the hopes we had in seeing the vital changes that are needed in our jails to take place.

    The makeup of this Commission is also of concern to me. How can you properly investigate the jails without experts who know how to properly run the jails? Many experts in this area that I know applied to this Commission and were rejected! Without input from these experts proper changes will not and cannot occur.

    Further, in my opinion, having Sheriff Smith on the Blue Ribbon Commission is a true conflict of interest. (Stripping her of a vote doesn’t negate the fact that she shouldn’t be on it!) The time for throwing Deputy’s and other staff members under the bus has come to an end. She needs to be held accountable for what has gone on in the jails under her watch before someone else escapes, dies, an admitted murderer is turned away trying to turn themselves in, or is given special treatment!

    Also, the financial cuts that have been made to jail staff, training, and programs needs to be fully addressed as well, because these cuts have caused the death and mistreatment of inmates, AND staff shortages and the lack of proper training have put Officers at risk of injury and harm.

    My hope is that the Honorable Judge Cordell and her fellow Commissioners agree to go forward with this Commission while holding the County, the Mental Health Department, and the Sheriff publicly accountable for the deplorable and unacceptable conditions for both inmates and staff in our jails.

    I also hope that each and every one of you rethinks how you are treating Judge Cordell. She is a woman of integrity who is volunteering her time, and putting her reputation on the line to ensure that vital changes occur in the jails, so that no one else dies or is harmed in the jails.

    Sincerely,
    Kathleen Flynn
    Advocate for Families of Homicide and Victims of Violent Crime

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  2. The latest developments really aren’t shocking. We always knew how Sheriff Smith runs her office. What is surprising is how some officials thought this process could be hidden from the public. Transparency obviously has a different definition to some.

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    • I honestly believe they’re so used to no one telling on them that they thought they could pull it off. I agree, it’s not shocking it happened, it’s shocking that a) someone told and b) someone listened. At least to me.

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