The cost of Scott Jones’ ‘good old boy’ management

Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones is running for Congress, as well as running the region’s largest sheriff’s office.
Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones is running for Congress, as well as running the region’s largest sheriff’s office. mcrisostomo@sacbee.com

While Sheriff Scott Jones runs for Congress and hands out concealed weapons permits for the asking, taxpayers are paying the price for his and his predecessors’ failed management style. From the jails to the top commanders, the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department can’t seem to get past the notion that local law enforcement can still operate like some good old boys club. And the price always seems to end up in the lap of the public.

There was the $625,000 bias suit the county lost in 2006 after a female detective testified against a male superior in a use of force case and ended up kicked out of the homicide bureau. There was the deputy whose excessive force went on for so long before his 2013 retirement that local attorneys called him the “million dollar man,” for the more than $2 million in settlements and awards that he alone cost the county.

There was the downtown jail inmate who vomited blood for hours and died in his cell while four – count ’em – deputies stood by and did nothing, claiming under oath they had no idea he was ailing. That 2012 case cost Sacramento County taxpayers a cool $515,000, just one problematic jail case among many. Still pending is the lawsuit filed by a female lawyer who got up to stretch while meeting a client in 2014 at the Rio Cosumnes Correctional Center and found herself strip searched because she had accidentally stepped outside the view of a security camera.

Combined with the $3.6 million judgment handed down against the department in favor of four female deputies on Tuesday, it forms a familiar pattern. Though the department blamed everything from the women themselves to the recession, the jury determined that the men who were their superiors – including Jones and his heir apparent if he wins his congressional race, Undersheriff Erik Maness – had retaliated when the women spoke out about workplace discrimination. One plaintiff was so traumatized by the baseless internal affairs investigations launched after she questioned Maness’ relationship with a female subordinate that she suffered a stroke.

Taxpayers can’t afford the litigation this kind of management engenders, never mind the moral arguments against the old bully-boy mindset. It’s serious money, $3.6 million. Jones didn’t invent the departmental culture, but he’s a product. His five-member senior management team includes exactly one woman. Adding a couple more might send a message. So would a full-scale effort to change the departmental culture. It may have slipped his mind, with all he’s got going, but voters know where the buck stops.