Key OC Republicans Back Civilian Oversight of Sheriff

Steven Greenhut over at The Orange County Register's Orange Punch blog recently reported more bad news for Sheriff Mike Carona.

Key members of the powerful Republican Lincoln Club announced last week they believe it's time to form a civilian review panel over the sheriff's department, says Greenhut.

This follows the gruesome October 2006 killing of an inmate in front of a deputy who claims he was busy watching television during his shift and didn't notice the violent gang attack. At least one inmate accuses a deputy of okaying or ordering the beating. The sheriff's department found no evidence to support that allegation.

On May 17, DA Tony Rackauckas announced he'd created a special grand jury to probe Chamberlain's death. He promised a "very thorough investigation." Carona had no choice but to tell Rackauckas he will cooperate.

But is the fix in?

In 2004, Rackauckas investigated Carona—who share the same adviser: Mike Schroeder. The DA's office discovered crimes but let the sheriff escape. Carona had accepted tens of thousands of dollars in illegal campaign contributions from Charles Gabbard, a convicted felon who wanted the sheriff to lobby the state government on his behalf. After the contributions, Carona sent a letter on official stationery to state lawmakers backing a Gabbard product. He didn't mention the $40,000.

In their letter to county supervisors, key members of the Lincoln Club said it's time for more transparency in the sheriff's notoriously murky operation.

"We [don't] doubt the difficulty of running a jail or the professionalism of the vastest majority of the deputies charged with that responsibility," they wrote. "However, that a man was beaten to death while in the custody of authorities, a beating of which his jailers were unaware for some time, suggests a serious breakdown in responsibility."

The Repubilcans were being generous in their description of events, but the criticism must have stung the Republican sheriff, who despises public accountability of his taxpayer-funded egotistical fantasyland. But my sentiment is increasingly shared even in the sheriff's inner circle. Carona's fellow Orange County GOPers—including men who contribute to his campaigns—felt it necessary to remind the sheriff he isn't king.

"Government works best when it is subject to checks and balances," they wrote.

Ouch.

Lincoln Club members who are backing Supervisor John Moorlach's review panel idea and deserve applause for trying to protect the public interest are Michael D. Capaldi, Dale L. Dykema, Richard K. Wagner, Doy B. Henley, Frank Jao, Wm. Buck Johns, Al Frink, Donald P. Kennedy, Howard J. Klein, Wayne S. Lindholm, Daniel M. Livingston and James J. Morrison.

Jail deputies are angry at Moorlach, a conservative Republican without an ACLU bone in his body. They say he is intruding on their turf and argue that they can police themselves.

Sheriff's department officials believe Moorlach's review-panel concept is nothing more than political retaliation against the deputy's union, which opposed his candidacy.

Once again, Orange County's leading Democrats are absent on a major issue.

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