Editorials

Why does Sheriff’s Department always need a bailout from Sacramento taxpayers?

Sacramento Sheriff Scott Jones, left, walks through the Sacramento County Youth Gym before a forum on immigration.
Sacramento Sheriff Scott Jones, left, walks through the Sacramento County Youth Gym before a forum on immigration. jvillegas@sacbee.com

How many more times will the taxpayers of Sacramento County have to bail out the good old boys at the Sheriff’s Department who can’t seem to avoid getting themselves into trouble? Because it’s really getting old, not to mention expensive.

There was the settlement for $625,000 in 2006 to dispatch with a lawsuit over a female detective getting kicked out of the homicide bureau after testifying against a male superior in a use-of-force case. There was the one for $150,000 in 2016 to settle an excessive force complaint against Deputy Paul “Scotte” Pfeifer for allegedly beating a suspect with his flashlight.

Then there was the eye-popping $515,000 settlement in 2012 to resolve a case in which an inmate vomited blood for hours before dying in his cell in the downtown jail, while deputies stood around and did nothing.

Those were bad. This time around, though, things are worse.

Sacramento County is on the hook for an astronomical $10 million, all for a situation that was completely avoidable.

Four female sheriff’s deputies filed a lawsuit in 2010, accusing their superiors of harassment and retaliation for confronting then-Capt. Erik Maness with their suspicions of an improper relationship between him and a deputy under his command.

For that, a jury awarded the women – Annica Hagadorn, Dawn Douglas, Jodi Mendonca and Tracie Keillor – $3.5 million last year. Private attorneys retained by the county thought they could flip the verdict. But earlier this week, county officials announced that they were dropping their appeal.

That means Sacramento County is responsible for the $3.5 million, plus $5.3 million in legal fees and more than $1.15 million to litigate the six-year case in the first place. Luckily, insurance will cover about $8 million of this very expensive slap on the wrist, but the remaining $2 million will have to come from county’s contingency fund.

Since this mess of a case happened while Scott Jones was in leadership, although he wasn’t elected sheriff until 2010, the money to replenish the county’s legal contingency fund over the next seven years should come from his department’s budget. No passing the $2 million back to the county so the supervisors have to make cuts elsewhere and taxpayers can suffer.

Enough is enough.

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