Where is Laurie? We ask that question again and again. She conveniently disappears on a rather frequent basis, like during the scandal involving the “No Contact” policy with ICE (has the county changed the policy yet?). This time we got a little low-down on what was going on with the most recent trip from the end of October through November 6th. Sort of.
We heard the sheriff suddenly packed up and went overseas yet again. We know about trips to Israel by her and several of her administration that never brought any value to the office (obviously not including the bomb dogs and training received there — though we did get a 4th law suit due to her continuing refusal to reform the k9 program). We know of trips to China several years back to provide them training, which was never really clarified in financial means. Sources have told us there were discrepancies on paper submitted to the county regarding number of personnel approved, as well as nearly $5000 in gifts from the Chinese government to the Sheriff that we know about. How was each individual paid for on each of the trips and who received gifts, and how and when did they receive them to make this trip happen and were these the only gifts?We know about another trip out of the country earlier this year, purportedly to Africa for unknown purposes — perhaps vacation, perhaps not. And then this latest trip which we found to be to the Philippines.
Money aside though, I was a little confounded that the sheriff, while her office is in crisis, under a civil rights investigation by the FBI, under two separate investigations through contractors and in the process of developing a 3rd, seated on a blue ribbon commission investigating no one really knows what the hell what anymore, dealing with the after care of the death of two inmates, one’s death still yet to be determined packs it up and leaves the country.
We were curious as to the why for all this. It seems she was campaigning. Seriously. Here’s the video for the effort with which she was involved, sponsored by the Filipino American Chamber of Commerce. Doctors, dentists, and ophthalmologists. I am not sure how a sheriff fits into that group, but then I found a throwaway comment on someone else’s facebook about the trip. The sheriff was there to offer future training to the Philippines National Police. I find it amazing, while both her enforcement and corrections divisions are begging that training programs be improved and stating that failure to properly train may well be a contributing factor to one, if not both recent deaths in the jails, she is in another country offering her training services.
I was left wondering, was this trip in any way funded by taxpayers? Are the taxpayers aware, while she lets her office deteriorate here, she’s off in other countries offering them her county resources to bring them training? Is the Board of Supervisors aware that in her official capacity as sheriff she was there in half uniform, supposedly making this offer of county resources of which she seems to be in short supply when it comes to providing for her own office?
The other curiosity is that the sheriff was there at all. The sponsoring agency cancelled the trip for the time being according to their website. On the one hand one could argue, this was planned back around August some time and the sheriff couldn’t back out. But if the sponsoring and, I’m assuming, funding organization backed out why was the sheriff still on the trip and where did the money come from? Why, when the sponsoring agency pulled out, her own office in a shambles, did she not take the opportunity to gracefully bow out herself? Because this was nothing more than political pandering to a local constituency for her next election and while FACCSV wasn’t present, the events in the Philippines continued. Yes, she’s already making it a priority to pander to the various ethnic communities she was weak in during the last election. I imagine she also wants lots of “feel good” stories about what a good person she is to feed the public and pretend this mess she’s responsible for never happened. Two years is a long time for the public to retain this kind of information. If she can survive the immediate turmoil she has every intention of relying on that short memory.
This is the problem though with all these antics — there remains no clarity, there remains no accountability. The sheriff is acting as if what is happening in her office is minor inconvenience she can fix with all her “criminal inquiries” that she was so eager to point out at the commission meeting on Saturday. She had hardly a word to add about all the other problems in her department that violate civil rights. She conveniently forgets, programming time is a right and she was denying it for months on end. Her every move has been to counter the impact on her. Her practices in the jails interfered with civil rights — her cutting staffing, her cutting supervision, her letting some programs languish while others in the public eye, such as CASU are manipulated for public consumption favoring her. She’s clearly not investing any concern into the problems in her office other than how they may affect her in the long run and how to mitigate that — by perpetual campaigning and blaming as many deputies as possible for being criminals. Can’t wait to hear how she’s held people accountable next election. At least some of us will realize that if she had the accountability she claims, all these problems — many wouldn’t have happened or been as severe if they had.
And lets discuss the honesty of all this, and how the sheriff continues to hide information that could be relevant to the commission. We’ve already seen the sheriff and our supervisors lie by omission to the Chairwoman Ladoris Cordell. For all the talk about honesty and integrity in blue ribbon commission and how our sheriff welcomes people examining what happens, I noted a significant omission on the part of Laurie Smith and Undersheriff Hirokawa. It’s been the general understanding for a while now that the sheriff was demanding Hirokawa retire and his plan was to leave this December. It also became general knowledge that after the jails situation got out of her control, the sheriff begged Hirokawa to stay and got his agreement to do so. Apparently something has occurred between then and now in the run up to Saturday’s meeting. Undersheriff Hirokawa announced the day before the commission’s first meeting that he would be retiring in December and there was nothing at this point that would change his mind. He was unequivocal in his statement according to a couple of sources.
So if the Undersheriff, the person focusing on correcting corrections, is only going to be around for another 2 or 3, maybe 4 meetings at the most, why was nothing said? Maybe it’s changed again, maybe Saturday he did agree to stay beyond December. But one would think that the commission is entitled to know there is an instability here and garner some kind of public commitment or plan of progress that may involve a change of personnel.
Then again, the sheriff may not believe it’s important, after all, as we’ve said, the Chief of Corrections has only three responsibilities in the entire sheriff’s office, all in corrections, food services/warehouse, laundry, administrative booking and records; responsibilities clearly outlined on the organizational chart the sheriff has provided on the site. In this process, his role as undersheriff is to be the mouthpiece and scape goat so the sheriff remains as untainted as possible despite his not being allowed to make decisions of any significance in this role. If you’re curious how he’s generally treated, it was echoes of this story leading up to the deaths of Mr. Tyree and Mr. Roches.
Typical secret keeping across the board. Dig a little bit in any area you’re likely to find something the sheriff is hiding. Sheriff, you run a public safety agency, not the CIA.