Editorial: Re-elect Sheriff Smith

While Laurie Smith has her flaws, union-backed challenger would not be an improvement

California's system of electing county sheriffs, especially in metropolitan areas, does not generally serve the public well.

Santa Clara County is a good example of this, where most of the votes cast are from voters in cities served by local police departments and where the only interest in the sheriff is to make sure the jails are running smoothly and the courts are secure.

The sheriff's office is responsible for law enforcement in all unincorporated county lands (except for Stanford, where a unique arrangement delegates authority to the University's own private police force), plus three smaller cities (Los Altos Hills, Saratoga and Cupertino), which contract with the sheriff for police services.

The current campaign being waged by retired sheriff's captain Kevin Jensen against Sheriff Smith demonstrates why a better system would be for county boards of supervisors to hire a sheriff rather than having them elected.

Through mailings, robo phone calls and anonymous blog postings, Jensen and his supporters are slinging lots of accusations against Smith with little substance to back them up.

They have cherry-picked and distorted some inartfully handled incidents during Smith's 12 years in office, but their overriding argument is that deputies don't like her or her management style and believe she lacks "vision" for the department.

Not surprisingly, this criticism won Jensen the backing and financial support of the deputy sheriffs' union and the union of correctional officers, as well as most of the unions of city police departments and a contingent of retired police chiefs, including former Palo Alto chief Lynn Johnson.

Smith enjoys the support and respect of all five county supervisors, including Joe Simitian, and a long list of elected officials. Perhaps most significant is the fact she has been endorsed by almost every councilmember in the three cities that contract with the sheriff for police services, in other words, her customers.

With no one other than deputy sheriffs complaining about Smith's management abilities, the public has little reason to turn Smith out of office. The county supervisors who approve her budget and most closely monitor her work and the cities that directly receive services from her department agree she is doing a good, competent job.

Jensen, who retired last year at age 50 after 28 years in the department, is able to draw the maximum pension of approximately $150,000 a year. The sheriff earns roughly $240,000 a year.

Jensen has had a long and distinguished career with the sheriff's department, but we are uncomfortable with his campaign tactics, union backing and distorted criticisms of the incumbent. And we find little to fault in Smith's tenure except for her occasional missteps that stem more from a lack of political polish and public communication skills than from a deficiency in her management ability.

We recommend the re-election of Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith.


Yes on Prop. 42

Although Proposition 42 faces only token opposition, its passage is critically important to fix a problem that threatens the transparency of local government operations in California.

The measure, approved without a dissenting vote by both the state Assembly and Senate, will amend the Constitution to make local governments responsible for the costs of making their official documents available to the public.

Under current law, because complying with the Public Records Act is considered a state mandate, the state must reimburse local governments for their costs. While many, if not most, local agencies don't bother to seek reimbursement because the costs are so small, the reimbursement process has led to confusion and, recently, to a brief suspension of the law due to the state financial situation.

Prop. 42 makes clear that cost should never be a factor in whether local governments comply with the Public Records Act. As we have seen many times locally, the Public Records Act is an essential tool to ensure public accountability and sunshine on the workings of government.

We urge a "yes" vote on Proposition 42.

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Like this comment
Posted by Robert
a resident of Mountain View
on May 16, 2014 at 11:22 am

Considering who is supporting current Sheriff Smith, tells me that it is time for her to go. A new broom sweeps clean is an old adage that should apply here.

Like this comment
Posted by taxpayer
a resident of Community Center
on May 16, 2014 at 11:33 am

I think Smith is a lousy sheriff but Jenson would be a disaster. I completely agree with the PAW that this position should be appointed by the supervisors. The fact that the union supports him is the first clue to make sure he is not elected. He worked less than thirty years and now the taxpayers are going to pay him $150K (with COLA increases) for the rest of his life. That is over $5M and does take into account the health benefits. The government unions have bought and paid for most politicians including Brown. So disappointing that the voting public continues to let this happen. Our kids and grandkids are going to be paying (for this generation's lack of attention to the fleecing by the government unions) for most of their lives. Disgusting!

Like this comment
Posted by Anon
a resident of Stanford
on May 16, 2014 at 11:55 am

Anyone that Joe Simitian is for, I'm against. I agree with Taxpayer that our children and grandchildren will be paying dearly for our generous and poorly thought out benefits for government workers.

Like this comment
Posted by Voter
a resident of Professorville
on May 16, 2014 at 3:01 pm

It simply isn't accurate that the only thing Palo Alto residents and others in this County have to worry about regarding the Sherrif is the security and function of our jails and courts. Many of the law enforcement issues facing our community are regional in nature and require a coordinated, regional response. It should be striking to voters that Laurie Smith has lost not only the support of her own officers, but of virtually every law enforcement organization in the County.

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Posted by Joe
a resident of Mountain View
on May 16, 2014 at 4:00 pm

It appears the Editorial Staff did little to no research on this one. A myopic view of the world around the editors shows just how little real work was done on this article.

The Sheriff sets policy and enforcement in the jails which determines who is released back into the community (or not) reduction in recidivism rates by the successful support of programs in the jails (which is failing at the moment), and safety.

The Sheriff is also the coordinator of mutual aid resources for the County. Mutual aid requires precise coordination and working relationships with every police agency in this County and in the region. Laurie Smith has neither of the qualities to support this mission. Poor management of Sheriff resources may mean Palo Alto will not get support from the County in an emergency. Under staffing at the Sheriff's Office is even higher than San Jose PD and look at all the problems they are having.

Quiet contrary to the statements made by the author, Laurie Smith is supported by the largest labor union in the County, the South Bay AFL-CIO Labor Council which represents over 89 unions and 100,000 workers in Santa Clara and San Benito Counties. The law enforcement associations supporting Kevin Jensen who work in the Sheriff's Office represent about 1,500 people. So who has labor union backing again?

In reality, the law enforcement associations have stood against the traditional unions of this County even though they were pressured not to. Why? Because the problems at the Sheriff's Office are not monetary. Remember, the Sheriff doesn't make any decisions when it comes to wages and pensions. Only the Board of Supervisors do that.

I have talked to several politicians about their endorsement of Laurie Smith. Their response when asked why they endorsed her: "Because she endorsed me." When asked when the last time they talked to her they often can't remember. Politicians endorsing politicians are far from the "customers" the author claims in this article. The customers are the people of this County and they are very dissatisfied with Laurie Smith. Though Laurie Smith is endorsed by many politicians, she does not enjoy their "respect."

Just like most politicians, the editors here failed to actually look into the allegations. Instead choosing to skirt the real issues of ethics, accountability, and preferential treatment to donors and celebrities.

Like this comment
Posted by Jenell
a resident of another community
on May 16, 2014 at 4:05 pm

I agree that the presentation of issues has been negative, but the questions that have been brought up deserve to be answered. For instance, why are deputies required to attend training classes all over the state when South Bay Regional provides the same training close to home? This management decision requires the county and/or state pay for lodging and meals and prevents deputies from networking with other officers in the county. This is a management decision and not simply a "communication skill or political polish" misstep. I also question why the author includes Jensen's pension and future salary in this article. Is the implication that he has ulterior motives to his canidicy? Like it or not, Kevin Jensen is fighting for votes and I would like to see the same from Laurie Smith. She refuses to debate with Kevin which would give her a forum to answer questions. If lLaurie Smith refuses to answer, I am disappointed that news agencies like the Palo Alto online refuse to investigate and bring truth to concerned voters. This editorial is asking readers to trust that the editorial board has done their due diligence in researching the issues, yet there is no clear evidence from this article that they have. Did the board meet with Kevin and hear his vision and future plans for the Sheriff's office? Did they meet with Laurie and ask the hard questions that have been brought to light not to mention her vision? I hope voters will continue to demand the truth and not be satisfied with this type of surface level reporting.

Like this comment
Posted by ucantbeserious
a resident of Los Altos
on May 16, 2014 at 4:43 pm

I can't believe any journalist or editor would actually print or agree with this article. In this day and age of corruption in political positions, why on earth would it make sense to take away the voice of the people when deciding who the County Sheriff will be? After all of the recent felony arrests of local and national politicians, including state senator Leland Yee, and our own County Supervisor George Shirakawa, why would you want to allow the Board of Supervisors to choose who they want as the Sheriff. How quickly everyone forgets how close Laurie Smith and Shirakawa were. The political favors traded allowed Shirakawa to use the Sheriff's Office as his own personal police force. Let's also not forget Laurie has the endorsement of the largest labor union in the South Bay Labor Council, headed by disgraced prosecutor Ben Fields. Do your research and make an informed decision. The South Bay Labor Council is supported by large contributions from the M8trix Casino who is now being investigated and will likely lose their license due to structuring and hiding millions of dollars in profits to avoid taxes. It says a lot, when your own department does not support your leadership. The Sheriff has Zero control over wages, pensions, etc. It seems the men and women who work there are in need if a law enforcement leader who cares about the communities they serve, and a lot less about the politicians the current sheriff owes. Let's give them a person they can look up to and respect.

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Posted by Mtn View Neighbor
a resident of Mountain View
on May 16, 2014 at 5:37 pm

My red pen ran out of ink in reviewing this editorial after highlighting errors and making notes in the margins. (Yes, I printed a hardcopy to review.)

1. "this criticism won Jensen the backing and financial support of the deputy sheriffs' union and the union of correctional officers" The Deputy Sheriffs' Association of Santa Clara County is registered with the IRS as a non-profit corporation. Likewise, the Santa Clara County Correctional Peace Officers’ Association is also a non-profit. The editorial board's labeling of non-profit associations as unions is clearly misleading.

2. "Jensen and his supporters are slinging lots of accusations against Smith with
little substance to back them up." The editorial board didn't do their homework. There's plenty of substantial backup. For starters, go to the DSA website or the SCCCPOA's Facebook page. Not a difficult internet search exercise.

3. "Smith enjoys the support and respect of all five county supervisors, including Joe Simitian, and a long list of elected officials." Who's missing from this picture? Go to the website and look at the list of endorsements. Compare the his against Smith's endorsements. Which list are you more comfortable with?

4. "we are uncomfortable with his campaign tactics, union backing and distorted criticisms of the incumbent." And so it seems the editorial board is more comfortable with Sheriff Smith's political consultant Rich Robinson's campaign tactics. Ask yourself why would Smith refuse to debate Jensen at an April 26 event by the League of Women Voters. Rich Robinson's piece on "Why Debates Don’t Matter" just didn't do it for me.

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Posted by republic united
a resident of another community
on May 16, 2014 at 6:45 pm

Well, so much for impartial journalism. Readers, go research and look for yourself vs learn why your neighbors and friends are putting up lawn signs everywhere, see what Kevin really believes in and his vision for the Sheriff Office. I dare you to find any vision for what the Sheriff is going to do the next 4 year on the incumbents website. Don't be sucked into the politics by politicians. Look at the endorsements very carefully, read the comments and ask, who's list are you more like?

Like this comment
Posted by Don't be fooled
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 16, 2014 at 7:53 pm

Looks like the Jensen campaign is doubling down on its Internet campaign to anonymously attack Smith. Yes, please folks, do your own research, and you will see why you do not want Mr. Jensen as the chief law enforcement official in this county. The Weekly got it right.

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Posted by Jim W.
a resident of Los Altos Hills
on May 16, 2014 at 8:03 pm

Thank you for endorsing Smith. She has really done a good job. Don't worry about the negative anti-Smith posters. They are same five or six that are part of Jensen's professional blogging force that appear in other forums. They are just using different "monikers." And, boy they are nasty. You should talk to one in person!

Like this comment
Posted by rukiddingme
a resident of another community
on May 16, 2014 at 9:43 pm

rukiddingme is a registered user.

Jim W and "don't be fooled" couldn't be any more incorrect. To start, its not just a few people who are posting about Smith and her unethical and deplorable behavior. There are many that are frustrated and disgusted by her actions and the disgrace she brings to the profession. When you look at the facts, the facts that are well documented, its enough to make anyone wonder how she has remained in office so long. If the treatment Aldon Smith received while being investigated by her office isn't enough lets look at others (by the way everyone, including the editors of the Palo Alto Online should watch the NBC 11 interview where Smith lies and lashes out at the reporter).

Why don't we talk about the fact she regularly has members of the Sheriff's Advisory Board at the firing range blowing through ammunition like the taxpayers are paying for it. Wait, the taxpayers ARE paying for it. And the fuel in "her" helicopter as they take VIP rides at the annual SWAT competition, the taxpayers are paying for that too. If she was "really doing a great job", all of law enforcement, victims groups, Marc Klaas, Fugitive Watch and a large contingency of retired police chiefs wouldn't be endorsing her challenger. If she was "really doing a great job" she wouldn't have cases shroud in controversy and making national news such as; the DeAnza Rape incident, the tragic death of Audrie Pott (whom she never spells her name correctly), the error plagued Sierra LaMar case and the act of domestic terrorism at the Metcalf Power Sub-Station that she responded to as an act of vandalism.

The bottom line here folks...whether or not you've been "fooled" by Smith or not, 16 years is long enough for any politician to be in one office. Smith has lost the support of her staff which is crucial for her to remain effective as the Sheriff. She is out of touch with the department and in fact graduated the academy long before many of her deputies were even born. [Portion removed.]For the readers of this article, do yourself a favor and research Kevin Jensen. You too will see he IS the right choice for Palo Alto and the County.

Like this comment
Posted by Sparty
a resident of another community
on May 17, 2014 at 5:23 am

Sparty is a registered user.

Pretty obvious what the choices are. The political candidate Smith, or the law enforcement candidate...

Look at who Smith gives conceal weapons permits to...people who send money her way:

Web Link

Like this comment
Posted by Justice4Joshua
a resident of another community
on May 17, 2014 at 8:24 pm

Justice4Joshua is a registered user.

[Post removed.]

Like this comment
Posted by Justice4Joshua
a resident of another community
on May 29, 2014 at 12:47 pm

Justice4Joshua is a registered user.

Why would you remove Joshua's story from your page, Do you not think the people need to know about Sheriff Smith's misconduct concerning Joshua's death, even more so since his death has been reopened after 25 years, as of 63 Days ago, and the new information has even more Deputy misconducted involved. Contact Sheriff Smith and ask her why she doesn't have a seasoned Homicide Deputy in charge of his investigation instead of one of her hand picked yes men who has never ran a Homicide investigation ever, let alone a death that was tossed aside 25 years ago

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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