Santa Clara County board should unanimously approve vote of no confidence in sheriff

The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday should unanimously approve the proposed resolution for a vote of no-confidence of Sheriff Laurie Smith. And community leaders should join the call for the sheriff’s resignation.

Smith’s repeated pattern of unbecoming conduct is unacceptable for a public official and especially so for the top law enforcement leader of the sixth largest county in California.

Supervisors Joe Simitian and Susan Ellenberg made public their proposed resolution Wednesday, citing the costly jail abuse and neglect settlements and a series of criminal indictments that have ensnared the sheriff’s associates and her political inner circle.

The memo by Simitian and Ellenberg said, “We find ourselves left with one regrettable conclusion. We no longer have confidence that Sheriff Laurie Smith is able to faithfully, effectively and ethically perform the duties of sheriff.”

Their resolution follows on the heels of the board unanimously approving a referral by Simitian and Supervisor Otto Lee calling for external investigations of the county’s jail operations by the U.S. Department of Justice, the state’s Attorney General and the county’s civil grand jury.

Smith held a defiant news conference on Aug. 18 in which she rejected calls for her resignation and said she welcomed the investigation of county jail operations. She has given no indication of whether she intends to run for a seventh term in office in 2022. Another four years of Smith’s leadership would be a disaster for the county. It threatens to normalize behavior that does not meet the sheriff’s office standards for preserving the public safety of all county residents. Nor does it come close to upholding the sheriff office’s core values of “maintaining the highest level of public trust” or demanding “the highest standards of honesty and integrity.”

Simitian and Ellenberg’s seven-page resolution details the sheriff’s shortcomings with stark clarity.

It includes:

• The fact that for more than two years, the District Attorney has pursued investigations and prosecutions of alleged corruption in the Sheriff’s Office relating to the issuance of carry concealed weapons licenses. The sheriff’s undersheriff, a captain, a campaign fundraiser and other political allies have been indicted in the alleged pay-for-play scheme. Smith invoked her Fifth Amendment rights in refusing to testify before a grand jury, which in itself should be cause for her to resign.

• Two separate incidents at the county jail that have cost taxpayers millions of dollars in settlement and a third expected to result in an eight-figure settlement. This, after the county has devoted $78 million annually and $370 million in one-time expenditures to implement Blue Ribbon Commission recommendations and adhere to two federal consent decrees with very little to show for it.

•  An alleged criminal informant was beaten by more than 30 other jail inmates last November with no deputy intervention.

•  A Sheriff’s Office employee testified before a criminal grand jury that Smith asked her to purchase inexpensive tickets to a San Jose Sharks hockey game in order to avoid reporting the luxury suite tickets as a gift under Fair Political Practices Commission rules. News reports revealed that the cheap tickets were not used, and Smith celebrated her reelection in the luxury suite.

Santa Clara County residents deserve a sheriff who is trustworthy and adheres to the highest law enforcement standards. The Board of Supervisors, county leaders and residents should let Smith know she is not above the law and that she should resign.

Leave comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *.