Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith Slams Draft Jails Audit

Government audits can make for compelling reads. The way they come into being, however, is tediously bureaucratic—eternal revisions, reviews and obligatory rebuttals.

Not so with a pending Harvey M. Rose Associates report on Santa Clara County’s heavily scrutinized jails, which have gone through an unbroken succession of accountability probes and lawsuits since three correctional deputies murdered mentally ill inmate Michael Tyree in 2015. In a Jan. 16 email obtained by Fly, Sheriff Laurie Smith goes off on Harvey Rose principal Cheryl Solov, slamming her latest draft as chock full of “drivel” and “knowingly misleading, dishonest and uninformed statements.”

Damn.

Solov declined to comment on the record until she gets the go-ahead from a county finance official. But she affirmed that the jails audit has taken longer than anticipated. It was originally part of the county’s 2017-to-18 fiscal year work plan and there’s still no clear estimate for when it’ll be released to public view.

In her letter to Harvey Rose auditors, Smith demands all the source material they used, the documentation, surveys, recordings and interview notes. If the government auditing firm refuses to relinquish all of the above, she wrote, they should consider the communique a formal California Public Records Act Request.

“During your audit we provided you with documented ‘proof’ of our assertions because you were unwilling to trust any of our statements,” Smith wrote in her three-paragraph screed. “We request the same in return.”

The sheriff went on to question the firm’s qualifications to even review a jail system, and demanded several more months to go over whatever changes still need to be made on the already overdue draft. Once it’s ready—at this point, it’s looking like it’ll be in the next fiscal year’s work plan—it’s up to county Supervisor Dave Cortese, who chairs the Finance and Open Government Committee, to put on the public agenda.

The current iteration must be riveting, though, to inspire such rebuke. If anyone’s got a galley proof lying around, feel free to send it our way.

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The Fly is a weekly column written by San Jose Inside staff that provides a behind-the-scenes look at local politics.

6 Comments

  1. These days it is not so much about following the money, but following the records. Public Records that is. News coverage and audits are critical components in local government oversight and transparency. But garbage in, is garbage out and the motive of the Supervisors to order an audit must also be considered.

    Silent since 1988 has been an audit of the Santa Clara County General Counsel’s Office. This is the office that gatekeeps lawsuits, files lawsuits beyond the interests of local taxpayers to challenge Trump’s policies and has an eye into every aspect of our county government including; jails, housing, local schools, hospitals, child support, the district attorney and even our victim witness services.

    When victims presented complaints to the county’s Whistleblower program about the local courts, district attorney Jeff Rosen and public corruption issues, we were met by a Mathew Fisk and a Paul Murphy. They were invited to a county building that looked something like an operation for Homeland Security. The high rise building soared over Silicon Valley and was decorated with computer systems that would rival equipment one would expect the CIA to manage. All that money and staff just to reduce the amount the county has to pay when people are killed in our jails, or on our streets by cops who have not had the benefit of proper training and support.

    In Santa Clara County, it is CEO Jeff Smith with his finger on the button and it has been clear Mr. Smith has been more concerned about protecting the Supervisors who employ him, than the taxpayers who pay him.

    Santa Clara spends more money on lawyers fighting valid lawsuits brought by local residents than it does on training our law enforcement officers, supporting our local schools, assuring quality medical care or providing living wages for those who care for our children, our elderly or those with mental health issues.

    Auditors have a duty to work objectively, and to find sources and material from competing interests while looking toward political motives and for potential for public corruption. Reports should expose public corruption and waste.

    Auditors must assure they are not “cherry picking” source material for political reasons. And when the reports are issued, elected officials have a duty to do something about them, which Santa Clara County Supervisors have consistently failed to do.

    Laurie Smith may not always demonstrate ladylike qualities when sending emails, yet Ms. Smith arguably has reason to distrust the Supervisors, and the County Counsel, who have consistently shown their political colors especially in the last election where there was an appearance that lawyers under the supervision of Jeff Smith, James Williams, Supervisor Dave Cortese and Joe Smitian clearly used their power and government positions for self-serving purposes.

    Dave Cortese has expressed interest in running for California’s Senate. Time to start looking at the political motives and aspirations of local politicians who have their eye on state interests, as they demonstrate no interest in managing the money of the people who elected him in Santa Clara County.

    Yes, keep pressing on San Jose Inside. Request and Follow the Records, even Sheriff Laurie Smith knows the power of a Public Records Request.

  2. “Santa Clara County General Counsel’s Office” – there is no such thing. Do you mean the Office of County Counsel? Of course that office is involved in everything the County is involved in – they are the County’s attorneys. What is the following statement a reference to? – “especially in the last election where there was an appearance that lawyers under the supervision of Jeff Smith, James Williams, Supervisor Cortese and Joe Simitian clearly used their power and government positions for self-serving purposes.”

  3. Always be on the lookout for corrupt and/or sadistic corrections officers. When you find them, prosecute them fully, with out of county DA’s before an out of county judge. If they are found guilty, sentence them harshly. As for the prisoners, it’s jail, stupid! If you don’t like it there, stop committing crimes.

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