Ethics committee in works
The board created the independent citizens review panel on Tuesday after revisiting an earlier proposal by supervisors Jerry Hill and Adrienne Tissier. At its July 22 meeting, the board cautiously backed the idea but asked for some fine-tuning of language to avoid the panel embarking on what Supervisor Mark Church characterized as a “witch hunt” against officials.
The approved proposal defines “serious official misconduct” based on an existing San Bernadino ordinance and allows the board to determine an allegation is unfounded before calling together the review panel. The passed ordinance also suspends the panel’s investigation when necessary as not to conflict with any criminal proceedings.
Although having such a review panel will help the county deal with questionable situations if needed, the goal is to never have them arise, Hill said.
The ordinance, which still requires a second reading to become official, also can’t retroactively address the matter which sparked its formation — the April 2007 detention of Sheriff Greg Munks and Undersheriff Carlos Bolanos in an undercover brothel sting in Las Vegas.
The pair were in town for a law enforcement race and told police they mistakenly went to the raided home because they thought it was a legitimate massage parlor.
Neither was charged with a crime and the supervisors said they had no discipline authority. Approximately a year later, Hill revisited the issue of official oversight for elected county officials.
Hill and Tissier suggested an independent ethics committee as an alternative to less viable oversight ideas such as letting the Board of Supervisors remove fellow elected officials. Not even a county charter amendment gives the board authority to remove an elected official and the state constitution doesn’t allow the board to discipline an official to any less degree.
While the committee itself can’t take action, its independent nature removes the politics from the process and can spark into action the grand jury, which does have the authority to recommend an official’s removal.
The citizen’s review panel of individuals will include either retired judges, former county or city administrators, former grand juror foreperson, or former county counsels, city attorneys or district attorneys. Selection would be random and Brown Act — California’s open meeting law — requirements enforced.
The San Bernadino County charter — the one most often referenced as a San Mateo County template — allows a four-fifths vote of the Board of Supervisors to remove any other county officer for “flagrant or repeated neglect of duties,” “misappropriation of public property,” “violation of any law related to the performance of the official’s duties” or “willful falsification of a relevant official statement or document.”
While the ordinance has survived a legal challenge, it has never been used.
- I have had numerous conversations with Sheriff Bolanos on this issue and made it crystal clear that the DSA does not support removing Tasers from our members. The Sheriff has has told me that he supports that decision and believes in Tasers have their place in the use of force policies of the Sheriff’s Office.
- I have met with the board members individually. I have explained how valuable Tasers are to public safety. I have explained how high in the use of force continuum Tasers are and how restrictive our policy and procedures are regarding their use. I explained to them that the calls/emails they are receiving are not from people in San Mateo County. The people calling are part of the social media army of the Black Lives Matter organization and know nothing nothing about use of force issues and know nothing about Tasers and their use in law enforcement and most importantly, have no idea about the events in Millbrae resulting in the death in custody.
- Sheriff Bolanos has authorized me to create a “use of force” day for the County Manager, County Council and Board of Supervisors. Working with the training unit, we will give the BOS training on Tasers and run them through various scenarios, with and without Tasers so they can see their value in public safety.