Twice-Demoted South Bay Deputy Ousted From Statewide Law Enforcement Organization

That largest law enforcement organization in California ousted twice-demoted Santa Clara County sheriff’s deputy Don Morrissey from its executive board just hours after San Jose Inside reported the extent of his involvement in a texting scandal.

PORAC—short for Peace Officers Research Association of California—scrubbed Morrissey’s photo and bio from its website sometime since Wednesday evening. Michele Cervone, a spokeswoman for the political advocacy group, confirmed his departure in an email the next day, saying “PORAC was made aware of the article late last night and the issue has been dealt with.”

Morrissey—who continues to helm the local Deputy Sheriffs’ Association (DSA)—had been vying to become vice president of the lobbying group, which represents 70,000 officers and 930 public safety unions. But sources say the 20-year officer failed to give PORAC executives a full or honest account of his personnel problems, which started with a demotion from lieutenant to sergeant in 2012 for viewing porn at work and continued through this year when he lost his sergeant stripes for failing to report hate speech and sending bigoted text messages.

The PORAC website swapped Morrissey's bio with a placeholder sometime since Wednesday night.

In an email sent to members Thursday, PORAC President Brian Marvel attributed Morrissey’s resignation to San Jose Inside’s reporting. He said PORAC holds itself to a high standard and that officers should behave in a way that engenders trust.

“Let me be clear, the idea of denigrating or allowing it to happen to others is never acceptable by anyone, and it is especially wrong for those of us who wear a badge,” wrote Marvel, who’s also president of the San Diego Police Officers’ Association. “The way we communicate is deservedly being closely scrutinized. Please be aware that what you say matters. And what you say reflects on you as an officer and every officer with whom you work with in our profession.”

Morrissey has assiduously defended himself by framing his discipline as retaliation for posing a political threat to Sheriff Laurie Smith. Further, he argued, an officer shouldn’t be judged by what he or she says off the clock in a private conversation.

Retired Undersheriff John Hirokawa—whose campaign to unseat Smith this fall relies heavily on DSA dollars—hewed to roughly the same logic when he testified on Morrissey’s behalf during the investigation a few years ago. The DSA-backed former jails chief continued to cast doubt on the integrity of the probe and dodge questions about the bigoted language of the texts as recently as this week.

An arbitrator, however, weighed the evidence and upheld Morrissey’s 2016 demotion because he failed to exercise leadership as a supervisor by sometimes ignoring and other times encouraging racist, homophobic, transphobic, misogynist and even violent remarks from a peer and several subordinates. The arbitrator, attorney Morris Davis, also noted that county policy and case law allow warrantless searches of even personal cellphones owned by public employees, so Morrissey should have known better.

The other officers involved lost their jobs, including Morrissey’s counterpart at the local Correctional Peace Officers’ Association, Sgt. Lance Scimeca. One of them—jail deputy Ryan Saunders, whose Hells Angels ties prompted detectives to take a closer look at his cellphone correspondence in the first place—even got arrested.

Though Sheriff Smith repeatedly and publicly called for Morrissey’s firing, the union boss survived the scandal with the lesser penalty.

Yet instead of owning up to the misconduct—which, to recap, was identified by an independent investigator, deemed worthy of a demotion by a review board and substantiated by an arbitrator—Morrissey stood by his claim of victimhood.

On June 6, DSA-funded attorney Gregg McLean Adam filed a petition to vacate the arbitration ruling. Because the lawyer didn’t bother to seal the attached opinion, however, it became part of the public record.

It’s possible that Morrissey never told PORAC all the unsavory details of his legal case because he never expected that arbitration decision to see the light of day. California law keeps police personnel records secret, so he may have assumed his long-running persecution narrative would remain unchallenged by his own texts and testimony.

The PORAC chapter that spans from the South Bay to the Central Coast just so happens to be holding its quarterly meeting tonight in Gilroy. And the agenda includes an item about political contributions to the Hirokawa campaign, a discussion that will no doubt set off some fireworks.

Meanwhile, county Democratic Party leaders have been talking about how to deal with Hirokawa, who won their endorsement in the primary, if he insists on defending a scandal-plagued political patron.

The San Jose-Silicon Valley NAACP faces a similar reckoning after its president, Rev. Jethroe Moore, pulled his support from Smith earlier this year to support Hirokawa.

Below is the full text of the PORAC letter announcing Morrissey’s resignation. 

Dear Members,
Yesterday, we became aware of an article in a weekly newspaper regarding a texting scandal in Santa Clara County. It is an integral part of our responsibilities as law enforcement officers that we behave in a manner that engenders trust.
PORAC is committed to enforcing the highest standards of integrity from law enforcement officers.
We are equally committed to working collaboratively with those we protect and serve.
Let me be clear, the idea of denigrating or allowing it to happen to others is never acceptable by anyone, and it is especially wrong for those of us who wear a badge.
The way we communicate is deservedly being closely scrutinized. Please be aware that what you say matters. And what you say reflects on you as an officer and every officer with whom you work with in our profession.
With that said, we accepted Don Morrissey’s resignation from his position as Secretary of PORAC.
Thanks,
Brian R Marvel
President

Jennifer Wadsworth is the news editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Newspaper. Email tips to [email protected] or follow her on Twitter at @jennwadsworth.

24 Comments

  1. I posted a comment under the other article about the scandal. With this article – the Metro seems to be at least 2 out of 2 for in its political oustings. 1) Dominic Caserta & 2) Don Morrissey. I am sure the champagne bottles are popping. Note to others – be sure to pay your fealty to the Metro, or alas, you might have an ‘article’ about you too…

    • Maybe it’s less about paying fealty to the Metro, and more about living ones life, professional and personal, with integrity.

  2. Shame on PORAC for giving credence to this one sided political hit piece obviously orchestrated by Laurie’s camp, especially considering this is an organization comprised of union reps. But I guess it’s about politics and perception.

    And speaking of integrity, what about Laurie taking evidence and interfering with an investigation by her own admission? What about multiple accusations of sexual harassment against her? Does that have any bearing in this Sheriff’s race? She’s got no mud to sling at John except to lump him into these horrible texts. Desperate perhaps?

    And please confirm, did every officer who ACTUALLY SENT a racial text receive punishment? By the standards set in the Morrissey case, virtually everyone at the department is culpable for failure to report. Just ask around.

    Find real news or maybe do an authentic investigative piece. I suggest truly taking an in depth look at the inner workings of Laurie’s management and her administration. Let’s seriously tally up just how much their blunders have cost taxpayers.

    • This reply is rife with logical fallacies. A police officer should in no way either through private or public e-mails or social media being making or condoning racist messages. The discipline actions taken against Morrissey are light. He should have been fired. Using a What About Laurie or What About other police officers does not absolve Morrissey of his own guilt in this situation. Deal with him based on his actions and deal separately with Laurie Smith and the other police officers. Make an argument based on the facts – pursuing logical fallacies will not work.

      • And yet Laurie hiding her negligence and fatal failures behind Morrissey, yet again, at election time is okay? Morrissey isn’t running for anything, Laurie Smith is and her incompetence had killed people. People, plural. Her practices have put corrections deputies in the hospital. Her refusal to establish effective patrol policies results in an elderly man being fatally shot during a welfare check.

        People have died and people like you want to keep allowing her to hide behind yellow journalism like this.

        • Morrissey did the crime. He should do the time! He needs to be held accountable for his own actions. Deal with Laurie for her actions as well but not as an excuse to absolve Morrissey from his actions. Actions have consequences.

          • Morrissey has beg dealt with, he was demoted. All the whiny in the world won’t change Laurie role in that and transfer it to a retired Hirokawa.

            Stop defending Laurie. Speaking of Laurie, tell us your thoughts on her allowing deputies to run a prostitute. I’d love to hear you run your mouth about that rather than a case that’s already been served. Do you have the integrity, or are you going to willfully ignore what she did there?

      • He did not condone the messages. He agreed they were vial and disgusting. His failing to report numerous officers does not equate to condoning. The discipline actions taken against Morrissey were harsh in light of past practice of discipline at the department, inconsistency in disciplines, and a lack of clear case law regarding one’s duty to report or clear department policy on said duty. He’s had a target on his back since 2011. She uses her IA division and Major Crimes Unit as her own personal political sword, when perhaps she should be putting more effort and focus on investigations affecting the victims of the community she was sworn to serve and protect. A typical self serving career politician. Those are the facts sir. And Laurie is mentioned herein in relation to Morrissey because it’s relevant to his story and what’s happned to him, and furthermore, this “news” piece argues that this texting scandal should play center stage in the Sheriff’s race, when there are bigger issues directly concerning her that the voters must pay mind to, this political harassment and retaliation of her own deputies being only one of many.

      • Bill Conrad- Yeah, that isn’t going to happen on SJI or through the Metro. They’ve endorsed her in every election, and ignore main stream media reporting about Smith. Recently, channel 7 news reported that Smith’s cohorts let a child molester’s arrest be delayed for a few days so that Smith could pick a better news day for her election. SMITH needs to be FIRED, but did you see the Metro or SJI report this, one of many rotten actions by her? No you didn’t and you won’t either.

    • I know people who have reported and nothing happened. In two instances, the sheriff was personally aware, in one she actually laughed according to witnesses. There’s also hard evidence one of her asst sheriff’s ignored complaint from an outside entity. We’re working on bringing this to light now.

  3. > Just ask around.

    Just who in hell am I supposed to ask?

    I’m just an inconsequential little pissant at the bottom of the food chain.

    I don’t know any sheriffs. I don’t know any deputies. I don’t know any union lizards. I don’t know any politicians. All I know is what I read in the Mercury Newless, and I put that in the category of “anti-news”.

    The only thing I know is my tax bill and the crime reports.

    Taxes high? Crime high? Vote somebody out.

  4. Hey Jennifer, how did you come up with Morrissey being, “ousted” by PORAC from this, “Michele Cervone, a spokeswoman for the political advocacy group, confirmed his departure in an email the next day, saying “PORAC was made aware of the article late last night and the issue has been dealt with,” when PORAC’s President said, “…..With that said, we accepted Don Morrissey’s resignation from his position as Secretary of PORAC.” Being ousted and resigning aren’t the same thing.

    Another thing, the Murkey News ran a a focused, factual story on this text thing, and so have many other news outlets. You might want to read what professional reporters do, instead of writing articles like this that the Enquirer would write.

    Jenn, if you really think Smith and her buddy Amy Le are running the jails any different than they have been, LOL, get ready for a REAL breaking news story that will come out soon.

  5. Shame on you Jennifer Wadsworth. First you publish that poorly crafted shock and awe piece of yellow journalism meant to purposely deceive and mislead voters. Now you revel in it. I’d prefer to get me news from an editor that isn’t obviously biased. I hope the residents of Santa Clara take to social media, flooding the Metro and San Jose Inside’s feeds, demanding your resignation!

    • The texts are enough evidence that Morrissey is not qualified to be a part of the system. We need openness and transparency in government. Let’s see all police officer’s official e-mails and texts. Racist, bullying, and intimidating texts and e-mails are not acceptable and should be dealt with. That is the issue. Give up on your logical fallacies and deal with the facts as they are presented. We need more journalists like Jennifer who are willing and able to expose the racist underbelly of our SCC public agencies. We will not accept racist rants from our public servants. Period.

      • Do you understand the FACT that he did not use the racist language himself or send any of those texts? Do you understand the FACT that the arbitrator made this conclusion in his arbitration decision? Do you also understand the FACT that he did no crime warranting your lame blanket saying that he must do the time? Crime!? There wasn’t even a clear department policy or standard in regards to this so-called duty to report. While I do not know you personally, your illogical arguments without knowing the facts or Morrissey personally make you out to appear quite self righteous. If you are concerned with bullying, misconduct in regards to criminal investigations, or sexual harassment, you should demand that Smith step down from Office. She actually committed a crime, one of who knows how many, when she showed personnel files in a meeting where she attempted to bully and intimidate Judge Cordell!

        • I think that they all should step down and preferably leave the County for Good or on a Rail. As a community, we want our governmental agencies to be open, honest, fair, knowledgeable about their jobs, and above all committed to serve their community. Enough is Enough for all of these entitled bastards!

          • Come on Bill,
            This is a one party system, you’re expecting way to much for one or two RINO’s
            to fix. I’ve gotten to flushing twice, to get rid of the truds, I mean voting…………
            Freudian slip !

      • None of it was on official communications. It was all off duty. Morrissey used no racial slurs. Interesting the silence from the likes of you regarding her ignoring deputies who actually ran prostitutes.

  6. What is this person talking about? Again, Wadsworth broke two stories
    Ok, So? She did something wrong?

    What?

    • Bert Oliver- “Wadsworth broke two stories. So? She did something wrong? What?” Yellow journalism….. She is making assumptions not presenting the facts. Why? To help Sheriff Smith win the election. The Metro has endorsed Smith every time, and these kinds of hit pieces appear on SJI and in the Metro against every one of her opponents.

      PORAC did not “oust” Morrissey. No vote was taken requiring him to be kicked off the PORAC Board. He voluntarily resigned, but you’d never know that fact by this article that keeps getting more distorted every time. .

  7. Don’t get too riled up over the Metro. Their reporters are nothing but a bunch of hacks who don’t care about truthful reporting. And…..the Metro is nothing more than a rag and fish wrap. There influence is limited to the uneducated and uninformed.

  8. Excellent reporting. Former Metro Editor Josh Kohen would be proud.

    The Metro continues to demonstrate the importance of a Free Press in our local community. As independent newspapers struggle with a modern financial reality, Metro staff continue to demonstrate professional integrity while delivering critical information related to our local politics and individuals who serve as our elected officials and paid public employees.

    There are thousands of dedicated law enforcement officers serving to protect our community who uphold their oath while doing so. When an individual fails to demonstrate the integrity necessary to hold public office, or employment, we cannot always rely on such issues to be addressed internally when an agency culture encourages a Code of Silence. We must depend on a free press and our First Amendment to break that code.

    Dissent is a critical component of our Democracy and a free and activity press must push the envelope where complex issues are concerned, and not just in Washington DC.

    Metro staff dive deep and often face retaliation In the course of doing their job, yet Metro reporters fail to give up when it comes to protecting the public’s right to know.

    Remember, journalists are not responsible for what the public does with the information, only making sure the information is fairly and accurately delivered.

    Jennifer Wadsworth shines in her new role at the Metro and our community is lucky to have her.

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