Santa Clara Co Sheriff Laurie Smith’s Advisor Publicly Hints at Taking Illegal Actions

During the BRC meetings, Amy Le was offered a working-out-of-class (WOC) lieutenant’s position. A position that she had repeated tested for and was passed over. This reached our ears and we put it out there, and suddenly Amy Le was admitting to the Mercury News the offer was made, but she turned it down. A clear sign the sheriff was reaching into the commission to attempt to alter the outcome. Yet nothing has been done by the Supervisors. There were other signs — the slew of sheriff’s supporters that initially showed up calling for every change but the leadership, often using exactly the same phrases as if they had been handed to them. The inability of her Director of Administration, Martha Wapenski, to answer far to many questions. The meeting the sheriff had with the Commission Chair, Judge LaDoris Cordell, attempting to divert this to a single issue against deputies and unethically working to convince Judge Cordell to aid in protecting the sheriff from her own failures.

Shortly after the offer for a WOC lieutenant blew up in the sheriff’s face, it reached my ears that Sgt. Le was interested in a political career and negotiated with the sheriff to provide her political introductions and opportunities after the commission completed its job. I couldn’t put fingers on this to verify it enough to cover it, but today I think we see the results of that.

Le was given an exclusive interview with a reporter known to bow to the sheriff, with the finishing touches like David Cortese touting change in CPOA leadership as the fix (ironic, the CPOA leadership was a problem, but the sheriff’s leadership isn’t?! Who makes the decisions here?). They even included that sweet clip of her working with the sheriff at those still under question locations where cameras were put in just in time to catch an inmate fight. Le spends the time indirectly bashing the prior board members, despite all of them other than the former president serving honorably and with integrity and working to support the members by speaking at the BRC meetings.

And now this… all but an out and out admission by Rich Robinson that the sheriff has been and needs to continue to interfere in association business as she did with the CPOA, something that is illegal for the sheriff to do.
Richard RobinsonHe knows calling the DSA and members who opposed the sheriff “Keystone Cops” won’t be nearly enough next election. Publicly advising illegal activities to the sheriff as her political advisor is as blatant as the sheriff trying to manipulate the BRC Chair; they have gotten away with it so often, that they have no fear, no respect for the law, no respect for the community. The public safety, YOUR safety, means less to them than the power and money they rake in through the Office of the Sheriff.

Yes, the LAWYER and political consultant seems to have publicly advised the sheriff to violate the law and take out those who seek new leadership for an elected office.

“The National Labor Relations Act forbids employers from interfering with, restraining, or coercing employees in the exercise of rights relating to organizing, forming, joining or assisting a labor organization for collective bargaining purposes, or from working together to improve terms and conditions of employment, or refraining from any such activity. Similarly, labor organizations may not restrain or coerce employees in the exercise of these rights.”

Is this what other communities do when there are problems in their law enforcement agencies, blame the deputies and their associations and allow leadership to go unaddressed while go off union busting? Of course not. When failures, or sometimes even just the perception of failure reaches a point where change is necessary, community after community demands a change at the top of the administration, firing chiefs and demanding sheriffs step down: Greg Surh, San Francisco PD, Anthony Batts, Baltimore PD, Sheriff Lee Bacca, Los Angeles SD, Gary Wilson, Denver SO, and the list goes on and on. Leaders are held responsible and accountable for failing agencies, but there is no accountability in Laurie Smith’s office, so why should she be held accountable by the community or elected leaders? Three unnecessary deaths in the jail, workman’s comp fraud, inmate beatings, deputy arrested for pulling his gun out at a drive through, racist texts… and report after report documenting the decline under her leadership, with enforcement not far behind the jails in the growing internal problems.

It’s shameful that David Cortese, who linked himself closely with the sheriff during his run for mayor, and others continue defending her. The only places you see crooked sheriff’s defended are Maricopa County, Arizona and Santa Clara County, California. At least in Arizona they’re currently threatening potential criminal contempt charges and possible jail time for the illustrious sheriff of Maricopa Co. Here, they’re patting the sheriff on the back and doubling down on hiding the growing problems in enforcement — as if it’s the deputies’ problem that there’s financial mismanagement, failing systems, no policies, the sheriff is losing another grant position, and no one will come to work for the Sheriff’s office so bad is Laurie Smith’s reputation throughout the Bay Area.

Maybe Robinson can tell us exactly how changing the DSA leadership would change the jails? The DSA doesn’t represent the jails and there are (thankfully at this point) precious few deputies who have to spend time there, so the “change” seems to be more an attempt to get rid of those that pose a risk of exposing the sheriff and being taken seriously about the failures the office is seeing.

It would help if the sheriff actually wanted to change the problems and not just have a media show to bury the problems. The DSA is not the problem, and just the fact that they haven’t yet filed a lawsuit and/or a complaint with the NLRB on the above says they’re far more willing to resolve problems than the sheriff. Though I heard rumor the NLRB is conducting a current investigation into other violations unrelated to the ones discussed here — yes, more trouble on the horizon for the sheriff. What the sheriff really wants is a union board that will sell out their membership like she had before. The DSA members that remember how they were treated under those circumstances isn’t going to give that to her without a fight.

The DSA has documented the frequent number of times they reached out to try to meet with the sheriff on matters like body cameras, policy improvements, and generally how to improve the working relationship in the office. They have documented that they have repeatedly made an offer to the Sheriff to hire, at the union expense, a mediator to help the DSA and sheriff find their way past the inability to work together so they could start to address common concerns. They have documented the repeated response from the sheriff, “not until you apologize”, and her refusal to appear at meetings to resolve even the most critical of issues. All the times she has refused to schedule meetings, or scheduled and cancelled, or just not shown up to scheduled meetings.

They can show the small group of sheriff’s supporters, many of them lieutenants, that have been trying, often while on duty (again, illegal), to convince people to leave and join Silicon Valley FOP Lodge #52 or start another union. These same individuals have come to meetings and attempted to attack members of the board with specious arguments in an attempt to undermine their support. She has had lieutenants — union members — and captains go to roll call meetings and spread rumors about a board member who was reaching out to entities in the county and on the Board of Supervisors trying to work out solutions.

Let’s be real here, the sheriff doesn’t need new DSA leadership to get the job done; what she wants is new union leadership that will hide the growing deficit of deputies, the unfair accountability practices that have gotten questionable people promoted to captain and higher. She wants a union leadership that will throw the membership under the bus when she needs a scapegoat. What the sheriff NEEDS to do is her job.

We’ve done the DSA controlled by the sheriff thing. It didn’t work out.They passed year after year with no raises, even letting the county pass on already negotiated raises. The union leadership even undermined the deputies and quietly shoved through a multi-year extension to their MOU with no raises for several more years. Grievances were ignored or outright undermined, safety was overlooked, and the fourth floor had no fear in abusing deputies. One former assistant sheriff was commonly overheard making sexist and racist comments. Sexual harassment by him and others was regularly overlooked and complaints were buried. If that’s what the CPOA wants to do, I wish them the best of luck, but the DSA members would be foolish if they even think about turning to a sheriff’s shill to run the DSA board.

We only have to go back to 2010’s election to see how little respect the sheriff has for any promises or how little desire she has to truly work together. The DSA was considering a no endorsement. They didn’t want to support the sheriff because things were starting to go seriously wrong. Rather than focusing on the problems she was busy trying to expand her domain again, this time with the jails (that’s worked out so well under her — curious, which promise has she kept to the CPOA in full to date from that election?). Deputies were concerned that the already growing lack of effort to maintain the office by the sheriff would grow. But she made promises and commitments — not one which she followed through on with full integrity. Many of which she completely reneged on and others still yet where she went in the opposite direction. Which is why they no longer support her and refused to endorse her in 2014; her reaction to that was to write letters and call both associations fascists.

Since 2010, we’ve seen her get control of the jails and systematically tear them down with the only election promise that mattered to her or the Supervisors — saving $10 Million dollars at the jail. In 2014 we saw how that was turning out, even though she ran on that savings. We saw the lack of professionalism on case after case in enforcement. We saw the relationship with the sheriff become more and more contentious as she used the Sheriff’s Office as her toy and deputies were left struggling in an archaic and crumbling system. It’s embarrassing how far the departments around us have advanced while we’re struggling with a sheriff who thinks she’s entitled to a union leadership that will bow to her every unethical want and pretend her office is a “nationally recognized” Utopia due to her “progressive” leadership. It’s commonly laughed about that we’re in the heart of Silicon Valley and yet some of the most rural agencies in the nation with more advanced equipment.

I’m hearing rumors though that the last straw the camel can take is already on it’s back. The sheriff still has an opportunity to reach out, accept the offer of mediation and try to work with her membership. She is the one holding the torch, she is the one trying to burn the bridge. The DSA board will not break the law for her, they will not illegally collude with the sheriff to harm their members, but it’s also beginning to appear they will not beg for the sheriff to to the right thing and improve her commitment to making the office whole with policies, accountability, integrity, and better practices all around. I hope what I’m hearing is true. It’s time for this game of the sheriff’s to stop.

Reading over this post and the last three years of her behavior outlined on my blog, if she continues on the path of attacking the DSA because they remain in support of their members and community’s best interests in safety, they are foolish if they fail to take more literal and substantive action soon. If that is all that is left, so be it. It won’t get better if the DSA leadership changes — what will change is that she will aim for a leadership that will remain silent in the face of all the problems and help her get elected.

I’m sure the Board of Supervisors don’t care, they’re already bleeding tens of millions of taxpayer dollars because the lawsuits Smith and her administration provided fodder for. What’s a few more of your millions.


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  1. Pingback: Manipulated or Misinformed? | Casey Thomas' World

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