The Sheriff’s Advisory Board is Still Trying to Hide

Set in for a long one. I didn’t include all the links I could have, Google is your friend. It’s hot, I’m tired, and I’ve spent this entire effort berating myself for expending this much effort that will probably make me more enemies than get people to stop supporting the sheriff. But here we go.

It wasn’t long ago I was thinking the SAB had decided to step back and stay quiet. That perhaps they were tired of being cast in the Sheriff’s corrupt spot light, that they needed to clean up their ranks maybe. Given what we found a few years back, we could hope. I was actually hoping maybe they were cleaning up their act and eliminating the whole “honorary deputy” thing for convicted criminals. Silly me.

The rumors have been roiling for a bit now, and I’m still not able to confirm all of it, but this much appears to be true: The Sheriff’s Advisory Board is not honoring its 401(c)3 commitment to remain apolitical. Apparently they don’t care much for free speech either, much like our sheriff.

I was informed that after one of their employees “liked” and “shared” John Hirokawa’s campaign Facebook page on their own personal page, they were promptly fired. I’m sure the argument will be to attempt to claim they acted on the fact that a political statement was made, but the statement was made as an individual and in no way representative of the organization itself, I’m told. This is allowed, as we saw with the endorsement of Kevin Jensen by Mark Klaas and other members of the KlaasKids Foundation as well as Harriet Solarno of Crime Victims United in 2014. Each endorsed Laurie Smith’s opponent as individuals, as is their right, without the involvement of their charitable organizations.

We know the sheriff has a ZERO  tolerance policy (one of the few, but it’s still not in writing either) for dissent when it comes to disagreeing with her in any fashion. In case you missed it, there have been pending lawsuits against her personally and the county for some time now for misconduct in handling personnel information, creating a hostile work environment, soliciting and rewarding political favors from the ranks, and actively suppressing free speech of deputies who endorsed Jensen last election. Last I reviewed the filings there were only several identified deputies, but as many as 23 more unnamed deputies are part of the suits as well.

Given all this, it would come at no surprise if the Sheriff has demanded a non-partisan charity foundation solely in existence to support the county in supplementing sheriff’s office needs fire the person who’s been working for them for at least 4 years now. The idea that the people involved with the SAB are politically close enough to the sheriff to simply fire someone for supporting someone other than Smith is not unrealistic to believe either. Either way, a legally required non-partisan entity that is supposed to support the office, not the individual, appears to have acted in a wholly political manner.

So much for supporting the deputies regardless of political bent. To the individual who was fired, anything you care to share about what the public should know about this philanthropic organization, I would gladly give you forum here. (Hey, if you don’t ask, right?)

The SAB website states, up front, they are a non-political, non-profit, volunteer organization serving the special needs of Santa Clara County residents. Well to serve the needs of residents, one would think that would include honoring their non-political commitment, honoring the election process, and not trying to suppress the personal political opinions of their employees or anyone for that matter.

They also claim one of their goals as “… enhancing the cooperative spirit between the Sheriff’s Office and the citizens of Santa Clara County.” In actuality, the actions of the SAB continue to undermine trust between deputies and the public with the questionable situations and complete lack of knowledge of who is involved with this seemingly political organization.

They aren’t exactly honest with the public either. They are still to some degree promoting their endless 15 year fundraising campaign for “Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office Situational Training Facility”, but not quite as blatantly (more on that later) . We pointed out this was a false claim 4 years ago and now 4 years down the road, there still has been no further improvements on this grand project.

There’s an interesting tidbit on their site that says they’ve donated “over $400,000” in 21 years. I found, looking at 990’s, that the organization has donated about $918,000 from 2013 through 2015, with a single year grant of over $500,000 in just 2013, assuming I’m reading their public Form 990 correctly. Detailing the donations that they publicly document and that I could find listed with the county through memos from the sheriff, I could find nothing that reached that amount. It gives “follow the money” a whole new meaning in the Sheriff’s office.

Hey, for anyone in the media who wants to start digging, Sheriffs Advisory Board of Santa Clara County, EIN – 77-0063973, listed as a Public Charity. They have taken their voting directors off their web page since last election. For they record, as per their last available 990, they are James Campagna, Steve Hunt, Joseph Ziegler, David Rose, and Gregg Dietz.

The web page strangely doesn’t put dates on all of their donations, so I went to the wayback machine. The only donations that they list that are new since February 2013 are the slingbags and the gun safes, which I estimate together cost less than $25,000. Granted, we must admit, Wayback Machine is a spotty source, so keep that in mind. The last large donation that I can see documented on their site that would cost any large sum was the boat that Dave Cortese co-opted and uses for his “Alviso Boat Tour“, purchased all the way back in 2009. Someone explain to me why the SAB is donating such non-essential equipment to an office that, especially in 2009, was in need of A LOT of other things more important than a boat?

Now I believe I can identify at least some unidentified purchases. First, sources informed me guns were purchased for SERT one year, after it was discovered the age and continuing use for SAB events had degraded the guns to the point of being unsafe. The guns were used so heavily at events for SAB members that breaks would be required because the guns became to hot to use. I’ve been so far unable to find the donation request letter to the county for this despite multiple sources providing this info. Given the number of sources, I’ll assume I just haven’t looked hard enough More recently 8 sniper rifles were purchased at the sheriff’s request for about $44,000, according to documents. I guess for a sheriff that tells the protest groups she wants to all but disarm her deputies, she wouldn’t want these two purchases publicized.

In 2013, just under $580,000 was granted to the SO by the SAB according to their 990’s. It wasn’t until September 2014 that request to accept a gift was put in front of the county and it was for only $499,700. It was earmarked for improvements to the range, improvements that if I’m remembering correctly occurred well before that letter was put in front of the Board of Supervisors. A gap of nearly a year and a discrepancy of roughly $80,000 should be accounted for,  but we have no way of knowing. Did that $80K go to some other effort? Where’s the memo to the county? Did the sheriff pocket that money? Who knows? Certainly not me, but I see no reason to no assume the worst here given how the SAB and the sheriff choose to retract into the dark even more every time these things get pointed out rather than provide answers.

The SAB may be, in some manner, supporting and/or supplementing the $200,000+ it cost to run the anti-bullying/dog campaign in some fashion. They did buy the dogs and training. There’s a $44+K letter from 2014 for 2 dual purpose dogs. That may pull up part of the missing $80K from 2013 and there is a far more reasonable potential gap between earmarking and implementation here. Or is it part of the 2014 donation amount? Again, everything is so unclear. Unfortunately, on top of this we still carry at least $200K a year to run this program that apparently is now being run, at least in part, outside of county as far as Sacramento, allegedly for sheriff’s friends. Though I am curious if the other $40K went to replace the dog and training because the first training organization refused to pass one of the handlers for poor performance and wasn’t willing to carry the liability. I’m not sure how many dogs or what level of support they’ve given this program, especially since it’s currently the sheriff’s best chance at a supportive constituency – the family vote. Did they buy another dog and training or did the taxpayer pay for a new school and new dog?  This money and support could be going to re-implement larger and much needed community programs like the community oriented program, SCOPE in an office that has been saying they don’t have any money. Laurie Smith’s fiscal efficiency doesn’t count when it can real in votes in a county that is increasingly less interested in supporting her. There simply is not enough political capital in broad community policing campaigns as far as the sheriff is concerned. If anyone ever has a lawsuit involving these dogs, look into the training history of both the dog and the handler.  I hate to give away taxpayer money, but hey, it’s the sheriff’s practices that put everyone at risk, not me.

The problem remains, the apparent donations on the 990s do not seem to match up to the sheriff’s request to accept donations letters to the county. Again, this is a tedious process, I haven’t exhausted all avenues and there may be legitimate information to fill in the gaps I’m simply not finding without doing a full on deep dive into this. There is no reasonable excuse I can come up with for the SAB to make their charitable gifts so difficult to follow though. Outside the guns, we must pretend we’re a department without guns. This public philanthropic organization intended to “help the public” is working in the shadows with who knows what motivations and fiscal actions and the public really has no idea how this money is being handled since there is no clear and apparent accounting within the county system. Still. Rather than more sunshine after pointing this out during the last election, they’ve withdrawn even further into the shadows. And now we’re seeing potential evidence of direct politically driven behavior.

How are they less public? Let’s count the ways.

They’ve deleted their newsletter pages, (all deleted pages courtesy of waybackmachine.com) not that they had done a newsletter in years . When things under Laurie Smith started going sideways, they started to go silent. Their membership recruiting page is gone  – I can’t imagine their response to membership inquiries has improved since the individual who wrote a blog about his efforts to try to join were ignored. You can still find their application in the archives – maybe it was the “appointment…is strictly HONORARY and there is no implication that I will have any Police powers or authority. If for any reason I attempt to use my Identification Card for any purpose, officially or gratuitously, I understand that I could be prosecuted for violation of Penal Code Sections 146a and 538d” part they got nervous about after having a member publicly proclaiming themselves an honorary deputy? Or maybe it was all the criminal activity easily found despite the “…membership requires a background investigation by the Sheriff’s Advisory Board of Santa Clara County and/or Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office into all areas of my background, which may affect my suitability for this membership” part of the application. Who knows. Again, no sunlight, and all the investigative journalism teams we have in the media around here, apparently they’re too afraid to look for sunshine here.

The SAB has also wiped their site of their leadership members. We now only see the top 2 executive positions. In August of 2015, we got three, and some time between February 2012 and February 2013, they deleted the full list of executive advisory members. Who knows who’s involved now.

They claim to have specific tasks and assigned members to those tasks, but no means for the public to know what those are or who is in charge of them. Even their sponsors page was removed at some point between March 2016 and now.  Also gone is all the grand references to their “sponsorship” of Laurie Smith’s annual party for them, Best of the West “competition”. I still believe the county is obligated to follow the money on these events – I understand looking at the deposit dates v. event dates could be interesting. I heard this year, that Smith wouldn’t even allow members of the office to come unless they had been explicitly invited, some people were even escorted off the site according to some sources. No helicopter ride for you! I still want to know why she thinks that the Corrections personnel are qualified to be running such an event over enforcement personnel.

Oh yes, and their whole “focus” has moved from this to this. As I pointed out earlier, still no work done on that “situational facility”. I guess they don’t want to hear any more about it from the likes of me? Oh well. Maybe it’s time to admit this was a grand fantasy used to distract people. Possibly to distract the Board of Supervisors as well.

I recommend again, either Laurie Smith’s advisory board come into the light, or the media do their job and look into this organization. I also suggest that Undersheriff Hirokawa (ret.) commit to the promise, if he wins, to either be fully public with the accounting of this organization, or completely separate himself and the office from the current format and the people involved.

Yes, it’s that time again, the voice of the sheriff is ringing through the hallways again with the song of “who can I kill!” and everyone is scrambling for position behind the barricades to protect themselves from her wrath. Odds are deputies won’t openly bet against her this time because they’re afraid, they’ve seen example after example of what she will do to those who don’t at the very least keep their mouths shut if they won’t support her. She’s also just shown yet again with at least half her most recent promotions and many promotions prior, no matter how little you do, or how incompetent you may be, you too can be rewarded for kissing the hand that thinks it owns you.

PS, forgive me if there are gaps. I’ve just spent about 8 hours putting this together and I’m cross-eyed. Feel free to yell at me or ask questions about anything unclear in comments and I’ll see if I can figure out what I did.

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