That is a picture of the sheriff and a large number of her command staff, her management, at the presentation of the Blue Ribbon Commissions on Jail Reform final report. Most if not all were ordered to be present.
I can only imagine the cost of sitting 20+ people there for no real purpose. Lieutenants make roughly $67 an hour, Captains make about $80 an hour, the Assistant sheriffs make about $90 and hour. Just for the two most hated people in the office to be there for three hours it cost $540. That’s probably $30,000 sitting there… perhaps the cost of over time for an investigation or two.
Why? Why were so many of the command staff ordered to be there? I can imagine there are a number of psychological factors at play here. She is in control of all these people, they appear at her demand. She is in charge. She carries the power behind all this brass and even more that you don’t see. She can and will sic these people on anyone who fails to stand in line — they are her administrators. But just as importantly, this gives the impression her deputies are behind her; looking at the seating arrangement, they are no doubt in her mind, behind her both figuratively and literally.
Make no mistake, what you are seeing here is her people. There is a tiny handful in that image of people who do not support what Laurie does, but do you think they dare ignore an order to appear when she is in her hour of need? The revenge would be three-fold. Many of the people in the image hold little to no respect among the line staff for their abilities as leaders, their ability to do their job — or any job for that matter in the sheriff’s office.
I don’t know how many of these people in the picture got up and left after LaDoris Cordell gave her speech, but I know the sheriff did. She up and left. She had no interest in the response of the board, but more importantly she did not care at all about what the people on the commission or the public had to add to the conversation. The BRC considered censuring the sheriff during the Blue Ribbon Commission, for whatever reason they did not take that path. This would have been the closest thing to public censure that could be hoped for at this point, and she turned her back and walked out. So much for being held accountable, the BoS and her PR firm has done everything they can to paint her as the great reformer.
Understand, it was more important to her to get out and talk to the media waiting in the hall while comments were being made because her political image for re-election is more important than listening to the public. I don’t know if any of you noticed — but at the same time we had a slew of people call for the dismissal of the sheriff from the jails contract, the sheriff’s office suddenly developed a new anti-bullying program, strangely enough consisting of one her biggest known supporters who has benefitted in the past from that support. The program had press events set up to run against the BRC story in the news and of course the sheriff was there… note how she all but pushes that first young lady out of the way, looking so eager to kiss the next political baby in line. Oh, she and her county paid PR firm are good. But the should teach her to be a little more gracious when she’s shaking hands with the public, they’re not her deputies getting some canned award she rigged for them.
As part of the conversation the sheriff missed, Cindy Chavez recommended a “management review” by Harvey M. Rose Associates. I’m sure she knew the recommendation was coming. But before you get too excited about someone coming in and turning the place upside down in a management audit, remember — it’s yet another review in a program that appears to be stuck in a persistent review mode, with no fewer than three other groups reviewing the jails.
Here’s the real problem with a management audit though… and really all the other work done here. The Board of Supervisors does not take management audits or needs assessments seriously. Never have. Don’t take my word for it, and I hate to belabor the point, but their actions are the answers to our questions. The BoS did a management review of the Sheriff’s Office back in 2003 that is exactly what they’re recommending for the DoC. Nothing has improved in regards to that report, much of it has grown worse and no one has lifted a finger to call her to account for it. If they did, she would make up stories about functioning tablets and new reports systems and the BoS would pretend her statements were full of truth.
Evidence the threat of a review being little more than a farce for the sheriff doesn’t stop there either. The sheriff endured, survived and ignored the 2003 management audit unscathed as of today; to bring it closer to today though, in 2010 the Sheriff’s plan for the DoC was audited by Harvey M. Rose Associates and effectively given a D, and that’s being generous. The BoS and the sheriff ignored that audit. Then they had 2 needs assessments done after the implementation of the sheriff’s plan began, there are 2 needs assessments prior to the implementation of the plan as well. The consecutive nature of the 4 needs assessments in just a span of a few years details the negative impact on a recognized system that prior to the sheriff was clearly committed to improving was now becoming increasingly dangerous for everyone inside. They even made a big deal about the approval of one of the reviews over in the Contra Costa Times going on about their “concerns”. The Board of Supervisors and sheriff ignored that report and all the prior ones as well. I certainly didn’t hear mention of them in all the rambling done by Cindy Chavez and Dave Cortese during the April 12th meeting.
Now we have a new bunch of various reviews, investigations, and loads of recommendations with more coming. Now we’re supposed to trust that the BoS and the sheriff are now willing to take on the heavy work. To commit to the expense of rebuilding what they broke in order to save money. We all know it costs more to rebuild something than it did to build it.
Costs… what has the sheriff cost us besides the thousands of wasted dollars for administrators that apparently have nothing to do other than lighten the pressure of having to face a litany of her failures. If you stuck around the meeting long enough you got to hear how they earmarked $1,000,000 to go towards defending themselves against just one lawsuit from the Prison Law Office. A lawsuit the sheriff may have been able to avoid if she didn’t intentionally and willfully ignore multiple overtures to discuss the problems and potential solutions. There are many other lawsuits underway, the ADA and several inmate lawsuits, the lawsuits from the families of the three people that died unnecessarily, and I suspect at least one lawsuit involving her illegal activities with personnel files. If she wasn’t going to commit to change then, why are we supposed to believe she will now just because she’s been forced to endure what she surely believes to be nothing more than a public spectacle that will pass by?
The impact of the failures of leadership on the part of the sheriff and many of those in the above picture seems endless, formidable, even unsurmountable at times. I suspect, no matter the effort, the moral and the departures due to the sheriff and the lacking skill set of many who appear in that picture above will bring this department to and keep it o it’s knees for some time to come. I do think we’ve reached that tipping point and the glad-handing most of the supervisors continue to do indicates they haven’t yet even begun to realize it.