Acclaimed OC Sheriff Finalist Retires

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South Orange County resident Ralph Martin, a well-respected longtime Los Angeles Sheriff's Department commander who finished third to replace the disgraced Mike Carona as Orange County's sheriff last year, officially retired today after nearly 36 years of public service.

"I've got mixed emotions," said Martin, who was responsible for policing some of LA's toughest areas, in a telephone interview tonight. "It was a great run."

Martin also campaigned to defeat Carona during the 2006 campaign, arguing a year before federal agents arrested our then top cop that Carona was a law enforcement amateur not fit for high office. At the time, he was disgusted that Carona had partied--in uniform!--at a Newport Beach bar with a Las Vegas organized crime associate. By a narrow margin, OC voters nevertheless re-elected Carona to a third term.

In late 2007, FBI agents arrested Carona, who had close ties to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, on public corruption charges. Secret recordings revealed the sheriff's determined, regular focus on sex with women other than his wife, money, gifts from businessmen, power and thwarting suspicious federal agents. In January, a jury convicted him of a serious felony: attempting to sabotage a federal grand jury investigating bribery and abuse of office at the Orange County Sheriff's Department (OCSD). (Carona awaits sentencing for his conviction in April.)

Martin was among almost 50 candidates seeking to win an appointment to finish Carona's remaining two years in office. Before false derogatory rumors were spread in well-placed political spots, he seemed to have a solid chance of capturing the job. But Sandra Hutchens, another high-ranking LA County sheriff's official, ultimately won the job in a 3-2 vote by Orange County's Board of Supervisors.

A prominent OC government official told me, "Ralph Martin is a tremendous guy and I bet more than a few people wish he was our sheriff today. He's one of the best. You're just not going to find a more seasoned, knowledgeable officer than Ralph."

--R. Scott Moxley / OC Weekly
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