Manage the Change; Control the Damage

3 stooges

So Sheriff Laurie Smith had her first campaign fundraiser — her birthday party this time — so I’ve been told, held by close lawyer friend, Chris Schumb. Schumb appears to like having birthday fundraisers for pay to play candidates, candidates that seem to more represent his access to power rather than an interest in what’s best for the voters. Extra bonus, the sheriff’s birthday conveniently dropped during the first month of the six month reporting period so no one was apparently supposed to know she’s raising money yet. Seems not everyone was told to keep the secret though, because here we are.

With the election a full two years away, this stinks of desperation; major power players trying to secretly hold fundraisers to begin to shore up an embattled sheriff who by all rights should be stepping down amid so many scandals. She has become so entrenched and such an important access point to outside powers seeking to influence how they are treated, they’ll do anything to keep her going.

All I know is this better show up on her campaign reporting unlike the “First Annual Deputy Appreciation Night”.  That “appreciation” never showed up on campaign reports despite her announcing her run at that event, collecting donations and commitments to work for the campaign, having key political people attending who barely even looked in the deputies direction, nevermind actually spoke to one of them. Appreciation. Ha! We’re still waiting for the 2nd annual event 6 years later — come on Gordon Biersch, what say you?  We know better though, GB is owned by her campaign friends, not people who appreciate the deputies. That and she started punishing “the powerful union” (?!) as soon as she won that election for making her do anything for the deputies, having to ask for support, and make promises to stop screwing things up so badly in exchange for their endorsement. Looking at the state of affairs today in her little fiefdom…meh, told you so. There I said it. I feel better.

So to the subject, I’ve been thinking… (yes, it hurts)…about in regards to the ability of the sheriff to inappropriately wield her power for the Schumbs of the world must be minimized to the best it can be at this point.

At some point in the very near future Undersheriff Hirokawa is actually going to retire. He’s been announcing retirement every couple of months since November. It’s my understanding that the communications from the fourth floor have completely broken down and the reason he is still here is people in the county have asked him to delay his retirement because he’s the last stitch holding this fiasco together. The problem is, while a few trust him, he has long been a part of the problem and some of us are very suspicious of his suddenly changed tune. It’s time for him to go, and if the county is going to consider trying to run him as sheriff, they need to remember the deputies will look at it as simply changing the old guard for the old guard and there won’t be much in the way of resolution regarding moral issues and all that stems from them.

But Hirokawa’s retirement can be the impetus for some small, but potentially moral boosting and trust building actions.  Who fills his shoes?

You don’t get to the top of the food chain in Laurie’s organization by being ethical and doing the right thing. Hell, you don’t make it to lieutenant without proving yourself, and looking at recent promotions, you don’t even get to sergeant anymore without permanently crippling your integrity. I’ve already placed my bets on the next sergeant position; that was a particularly sad day for me for reasons I won’t go into. It will be downright depressing should I be right.

I’ve heard the sheriff opened up the application process for a new Ass. Sheriff already; this is a problem. Firstly the two I heard put in for the job indicates Nuesel is the more likely of the two current Ass. Sheriff’s to be promoted. Neither of the two names carry any respect with the deputies. The first candidate is greatly distrusted, known to blatantly lie, manipulate his staff to his own ends, among other ethical problems.  He holds no respect by subordinates in the office and his ethics are not trusted. An entire (small) building was removed from the academy because of his notorious unethical use of it. Activity for which he was never reprimanded. There are individuals in the office he can no longer even bring himself to speak to face to face because he has worked to damage their professional reputation in order to improve his own. The second candidate has been alleged to have taken bribes and engaged in questionable fundraising for the sheriff and avoided internal affairs investigations because he’s willing to forego ethics. He was let go from another agency, yet has risen all the way up the ladder here in a very, very short time. He has derailed investigations by continuing to adhere to the sheriff’s policy of not calling in extra staff on OT during crises, for example the PG&E substation attack. A situation where personnel were significantly endangered for no good reason. Even more ironic after finding out in last weeks budget meetings that because the sheriff has so many open codes, that money can be used at will for overtime needs. So again, that raises the question, what has the sheriff been doing with those millions? But back on track…

Considering how Hirokawa has been treated, how he’s been thrown under the bus again and again, I think there is a reason he is still there.  Promises, power exchanges, I don’t know, but I think when he takes his leave, it’s time to hold off on replacing him.

We have had changes that in structure that may negate the immediate need for an Undersheriff who’s only apparent job at this point is to be the communications tool between a failing sheriff and a county with a lot of questions. We know none of the current Ass. Sheriff’s are capable of filling that role.  We also now have a 3rd assistant sheriff, another most hated and distrusted individual, who can (not well, but..) and has been running the jails.  You don’t see Hirokawa doing the talking, responding to the questions in his alleged role in charge of the jails, you see a Captain….sorry… Assistant Sheriff Bellieveau. (Sorry, did I spell that right?) Hirokawa, has been fully circumvented in all but using his face at the inopportune moments the sheriff doesn’t want to take responsibility.  Belliveau is fully capable of doing that at the current level he’s at.

The undersheriff role is obsolete at the moment, and perhaps it’s time again to see if we can run the office without it. This is not a new concept. The sheriff ran this office before with 2 assistant sheriffs and no undersheriff; she did so for quite some time for that matter. There’s no reason at this point not to do it again.

Let the sheriff’s leadership skills shine through. Show us those leadership skills she insists she has — mend communications with the county, improve morale with her team —  let the Ass. Sheriff’s continue to do the jobs they do, and she can do the job that she should be doing. Leading.

Or they can continue to fund the position, allow her to promote the most hated man in the office to undersheriff. Replace him with an individual equally distrusted and nearly as disliked and many times more crooked. If either of the two I was told applying to the list are promoted with the advancement of Nuesel, there will be even less trust that the office has any future of success than there is now. There will be no reason to believe that the office has any commitment to improving the situation because this promotion process will double down on what this sheriff has stood for and all the bad it encompasses, all the way down the replacement chain to the person who gets promoted to sergeant.

Every single person that promotes will odds-on be some one that has done something to protect or promote the sheriff’s poor and/or unethical agenda or to boost her image attempting to hide just how bad things really are. Why even give her the opportunity?

So I ask the Board of Supervisors — if you can, pull the funding for the Undersheriff position when Hirokawa leaves. Do not allow the sheriff to continue to reward the people who have helped her without question to subject deputies, quality, integrity, and the public to so many failures.

The position does not need to be filled at this point, filling it would provide no benefit to the county, it’s only contribution will be to the continued decline of morale in the office.

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2 thoughts on “Manage the Change; Control the Damage

  1. Casey Thomas, keep letting folks know what’s really happening. The Sheriff’s administration is really a house of cards. I agree as some have said, had she been appointed (as opposed to elected), she would have been removed a long time ago.

    Certainly there are many, many fine and dedicated officers working there, but they alone cannot steer a rudderless ship.

    I think if a competent, thorough and forensic investigation is conducted of the Sheriff’s Office, some folks would be held accountable to the citizen’s of this county and the Office could move forward in a positive direction. Until this happens and the Sheriff steps aside, it will be more of the same.

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