Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones clashed with members of the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday as they debated how to handle Jones’ unilateral ouster of the county-hired department watchdog, vowing there was no compromise to be had that would allow Inspector General Rick Braziel to remain in his oversight role.
“Any ongoing dialogue about renewing his contract is just silly,” Jones told the Board. “You can certainly renew his contract and pay him to do nothing, but I’m not sure how you can justify it.”
The debate comes weeks after Jones locked Braziel out of department facilities and ended his access to personnel and records, effectively blocking Braziel’s ability to provide oversight. The lockout came days after Braziel released a report critical of the May 2017 fatal shooting of an emotionally troubled African American man, Mikel McIntyre, along Highway 50 in Rancho Cordova.
Braziel’s investigation of the hectic incident found two deputies fired dozens of rounds as McIntyre fled away from them. Some of those shots crossed lanes of Highway 50, while others were fired in the direction of a civilian vehicle and a deputy, the report said. Braziel concluded the use of force was at times “excessive, unnecessary, and put the community at risk” and recommended increased training and body-worn cameras for deputies, among 14 other suggestions.
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In an interview with The Bee, Jones said the criticisms in the report didn’t prompt the lockout, though he disagreed with Braziel’s analysis. Jones said he suspected Braziel might have conflicts of interest and political motivations that had influenced his findings, and that he didn’t trust Braziel was “coming from the right place.”
Braziel denied those accusations, and said his report was meant to highlight ways where increased training and policy changes could “improve” the department.
At Tuesday’s meeting, supervisors Patrick Kennedy and Phil Serna voiced dissent and anger over Jones’ position. Both men questioned if the county might have legal alternatives to force Jones to cooperate, citing a section of the county charter that requires officers, even those who are elected, to cooperate with the running of the county. They asked deputy counsel Krista Whitman to provide an analysis of that section, which is expected to be completed in coming weeks.
That section of the charter reads that, “All elective officers of the County and all officers appointed by the Board of Supervisors, shall cooperate with the said County Executive to the end that complete coordination of all officers, services and employment, shall be accomplished, and the refusal of any such officer to so cooperate shall be deemed willful misconduct on the part of the officer so refusing.”
Supervisor Sue Frost said she was uncertain if it applied to Jones because, “I don’t think the Sheriff works for the county.”
Frost was told by Whitman that Jones was, in fact, an elected county official. Jones contended the language would not apply in this instance.
Despite the resistance from Serna and Kennedy, the Board moved forward to discuss how the scope of work of the inspector general’s contract should be modified for a future hire, and how an interim could be selected if Braziel’s contract is ended or allowed to expire in November. They largely signaled Braziel will soon be out of his job.
Supervisor Don Nottoli expressed support of Braziel, but said that the board needed to “get on with” the job of picking a new inspector general.
Both the Board and Jones agreed the current contract left too many ambiguities about the inspector general’s role and powers. Jones said he believed Braziel had overstepped his authority by conducting independent investigations.
Jones said Braziel “went outside of his lane” in the McIntyre incident, and in the future an inspector general’s role should mainly be limited to monitoring and auditing existing investigations.
“They are not going to be doing their own independent investigations number one, and number two, they are not going to be taking and monitoring the investigations that exist either with our agency ... or the district attorney’s findings and substituting their judgment for that of those investigations and coming to their own conclusions,” Jones said.
Serna told Jones he was “not confident at all that an independent office of the inspector general is going to work at all under your administration.”
Serna questioned if Jones would oust another inspector general if he found fault with that person in the future. He suggested that another model, such as a stronger civilian oversight board, might be a better alternative.
“The Board can certainly try to impose something greater and I will resist it so I don’t know why we don’t just work on what have on hand,” Jones told Serna.
Frost also spoke against a civilian oversight board.
“Citizens are not really qualified to oversee but they are qualified to advise based on their situation in their community,” said Frost. “I’m not sure a citizen body is qualified to perform oversight on a sheriff’s department.”
Jones accused members of the board of “political opportunism” and urged them to “take this out of the public venue.”
“Our focus frankly should be on how do we get the next inspector general,” said Jones.
“It’s laughable that Sheriff Jones stood before our Board critical of politics affecting this process,” said Serna after the meeting.
“Who ran a failed campaign for Congress? Who invited Donald Trump’s controversial director of homeland security to Sacramento despite mass protests, and who continues to issue hollow, unsubstantiated conspiracy theories about Sacramento County’s inspector general, Rick Braziel?” Serna questioned.
During the meeting, Serna said his constituents in the city of Sacramento had been contacting him in recent weeks “begging” for more transparency in the Sheriff’s Department, and that he had an obligation to residents as an elected official to hear those concerns.
Jones said that he didn’t agree with Serna that county residents were unhappy with the amount of information provided by the department.
“I’m not sure the entire county has been begging for transparency,” Jones said. “I do believe that I have a very high degree of trust with the community and transparency. It may not be the exact type of transparency and model that you would like to see, but what we have is working very, very well.”