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What’s next for inspector general’s role? We still don’t know after supervisors debate

‘He did his job.’ Supervisors debate firing Braziel and future oversight of sheriff

Sacramento County Board of Supervisors debate the future of the Inspector General position, on Tuesday, October 16, 2018, after Sheriff Scott Jones locked out Rick Braziel.
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Sacramento County Board of Supervisors debate the future of the Inspector General position, on Tuesday, October 16, 2018, after Sheriff Scott Jones locked out Rick Braziel.

The Sacramento County Board of Supervisors Tuesday wavered without result on whether to move forward with a “watered down” contract for its Inspector General, tasked with providing oversight of the sheriff’s department, prolonging a decision until at least the end of the month.

During a contentious meeting, supervisors continued a weeks-long debate that started when Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones locked Inspector General Rick 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.

Supervisors largely avoided naming Braziel in the Tuesday debate. Braziel’s contract with the county expires at the end of the month and some supervisors have suggested it not be renewed.

But discussion Tuesday skirted that controversial issue and instead focused on how the Office of the Inspector General’s oversight powers would be defined — and likely curtailed — in future contracts.

County Executive Navdeep Gill said he discussed the contract terms with Jones and presented Jones’ input to the board. Jones’ suggestions largely would take the teeth out of the position. Proposed language for a future contract as presented to the board would clarify the Office of the Inspector General did not have the authority to “independently investigate” or “make independent determinations regarding investigations,” according to meeting documents.

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The power of the Board of Supervisors to direct the Inspector General was also removed from the proposed contract. Supervisor Patrick Kennedy took issue with that change, saying it “watered down” the role of the board.

“Throughout the document, we’ve gotten rid of all independence and investigation,” said Kennedy, who represents District 2, which covers Land Park south to the Elk Grove border.

Supervisor Don Nottoli took a strong position in favor of preserving the inspector general’s powers. Nottoli will be a key third vote in any final decision, with Supervisors Sue Frost and board chairwoman Susan Peters having expressed support for Jones, and Kennedy and Supervisor Phil Serna voicing support for Braziel.

“We’re looking for independent examination, investigations and recommendations, and I think that’s what the community expects, that’s what this board ought to expect, and that’s what the Sheriff and his folks ought to expect,” said Nottoli, who had previously wavered on his position.

“I think this requires some additional community review as well,” Nottoli added.

In a Sept. 11 Board of Supervisors meeting, Jones clashed with members of the board as they debated how to handle his unilateral ouster of the county-hired department watchdog, vowing there was no compromise to be had that would allow Braziel to remain in his oversight role.

Jones did not attend the Tuesday meeting.

Phil Serna, who has been outspoken in his opposition to Jones, sent a letter to state Attorney General Xavier Becerra asking him to take action in this case based on his authority in the state constitution. Serna said the sheriff’s opposition to any county oversight made a debate over contractual language fruitless. Serna said the debate about language in the proposed contract was a “fool’s errand.”

“I will tell you right now I’m not prepared to support any of it, and ... the only reason we have spent so much time already having the last discussion, having this discussion, all the work that our county executive has already put into wordsmithing this revised vote has been precipitated based on a sheriff that didn’t find satisfactory an independent report,” he said.

“That is by definition a contradiction of independent review,” Serna added.

Braziel’s investigation of the hectic McIntyre incident determined 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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Nottoli proposed extending Braziel’s contract at the next meeting, but county counsel Robyn Truitt Drivon said that would be impractical as long as Braziel is barred from sheriff’s department facilities.

In analysis provided by county counsel, Drivon said the Board of Supervisors did not have the power to compel Jones to open facilities to Braziel or any future Inspector General.

As an elected official, Jones is within his constitutional authority when locking Braziel out of department facilities even though they are owned by the county, Drivon explained to the board, because he has stated he feels Braziel is a security risk.

While Kevin Mickelson, president of the union for county deputies spoke in support of Jones, public comment at the meeting largely echoed Kennedy, Nottoli and Serna’s positions.

“I again commend the board for establishing the IG office and Sheriff Jones’ commitment to unrestricted access, yet the first time independent oversight began to pinch, he refused to honor his commitment,” said Jim Eychaner, a Carmichael resident. “Every mention of independent investigations has been removed along with the authority to reproduce documents, as you mentioned ... The proposed scope would not hire an inspector general, just a public relations mouthpiece for the sheriff.”

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