Deputy Sheriffs’ Association Members Seek to Dump Leaders, Threaten to Leave Union

A growing number of officers plan to withdraw from the Santa Clara County Deputy Sheriffs’ Association unless the head of the union resigns due to his involvement in an obscene texting scandal.

About 20 members demanded as much last week after San Jose Inside reported on the extent of DSA President Don Morrissey’s participation in a slew of hateful texts that cost him his sergeant stripes. But Morrissey has yet to make any public indication that he or Vice President Roger Winslow will step down or even reconsider the union’s endorsement of retired Undersheriff John Hirokawa’s bid to unseat Sheriff Laurie Smith, as requested by the dissident members.

“To know that I continue to pay money into my union for protection and these are the guys in charge is unacceptable,” said Sgt. LaMond Davis, an African American officer with a two-decade tenure at the Sheriff’s Office and one of the 5 percent of DSA members planning to leave. “I mean, protected from what? How are they going to protect me?”

The DSA’s problems appear to extend beyond Morrissey’s ties to the high-profile texting scandal. Under his leadership, the 48-year-old union has evidently struggled to meet its financial obligations, burned through its legal defense fund at an unprecedented pace and even lost its tax-exempt status.

Source: U.S. Internal Revenue Service

Records show that the U.S. Internal Revenue Service revoked the DSA’s tax exemption in the middle of 2017 for failing to submit its required paperwork for three straight years. That means members could no longer deduct their union dues, which the DSA board dubiously blamed on a change in federal tax law and mentioned only in passing several months after the fact.

“As a note, this will be the last year you may deduct ‘unreimbursed business expenses,’ which is what association dues fall under, on your federal taxes due to the recent tax reforms,” the union told members in a Feb. 5 email barely more than two months before the April 15 deadline and days after some had already filed their returns.

The DSA’s most recent publicly available tax form is from 2013, when Dennis Moser was president and the union reported more than $340,000 in membership contributions and $283,000 in expenses. Morrissey took over the following year and the union stopped filing its mandatory Form 990s, which makes it tough to assay his financial stewardship.

“While this organization may still appear [in the IRS database], further investigation and due diligence is warranted,” the federal agency cautions in a public notice of revocation.

A dozen members who spoke to San Jose Inside this past week contend that Morrissey has hijacked the union’s resources for personal purposes.

DSA bylaws state that expenditures over $5,000 “shall be made if not budgeted for or agreed upon by a majority vote of the membership responding by a ballot containing just the verbatim language of the motion and a yes or no to vote on the motion.”

Members interviewed by San Jose Inside in recent days say they believe Morrissey has made his exorbitant legal fees the exception to that rule, among others.

Indeed, according to court transcripts, internal records and sources familiar with the situation, the DSA’s entire $200,000-a-year budget to defend members in court has been used to finance Morrissey’s legal battle with Sheriff Smith, arbitration over his 2016 demotion from sergeant to deputy and, just this month, a court appeal to an arbitrator’s ruling in his discipline case.

In depositions related to the 2016 retaliation claim, DSA leaders confirmed that $200,000 was approved for the lawsuit and that they did not seek the membership vote required for expenses above $5,000 because the money came from the legal defense fund, which they said doesn’t require the same democratic approval.

The legal defense budget in 2013, by comparison, came to just $70,000.

In multiple emails sent to members in the past couple years, Morrissey and Winslow justify the recent litigation as something that benefits the whole union.

“For years now, it’s no secret that Sheriff Laurie Smith has engaged in a pattern of retaliation against Don Morrissey and other DSA members,” they wrote in an Aug. 9, 2016, email explaining why union dues were paying for Morrissey to file a retaliation claim against Smith. “She has passed him over for promotions, denied him special assignments and banned him from instructing at the academy. Why has she retaliated against him? Because he’s the leader of our association and has fought for us.”

In a July 20, 2017, email, Morrissey again tried to quell doubts about the lawsuit.

“I’m the lead plaintiff because I’m the DSA president and I have the biggest target on my back,” he explained in a missive titled “Setting the Record Straight.” “But there are many amongst you who have stood up for what’s right and suffered detriment to their careers as a result. We are suing to make it stop—and it will stop.”

A judge dismissed the case later that year. But many union members say they never heard from Morrissey or Winslow about the outcome, or about how losing the claim put the DSA on the hook for the county’s legal fees.

Deputy Joe LaJeunesse—a retired U.S. Army major who ran against Smith and Hirokawa in the primary—said he has repeatedly raised questions about the DSA’s legal costs.

“[Morrissey] says he’s doing it on behalf of the union, but I’m not really convinced that’s the case,” LaJeunesse said. “When I ask about it, I never get a clear answer.”

Had the DSA asked him to authorize legal defense funds for the Morrissey arbitration and appeal or the 2016 retaliation claim, LaJeunesse said he would’ve said no.

“We members did not vote on his lawsuit he claims is in the behalf of the membership,” LaJeunesse said. “As a union dues-paying member I did not vote to spend on his lawsuit. Now, after spending over $200,000 and raising our legal defense funds dues, another lawsuit is moving forward on Morrissey’s behalf and I hope our union dues aren’t going to pay for that, too.”

Similar concerns arose about the union’s spending on a new facility. LaJeunesse said union leaders went “way over budget” to move to another building and then came back to members with their hands out looking for more money to pay the difference.

Morrissey and Winslow have been met with similar complaints about mismanagement and lack of transparency through their work with the Police Officers Research Association of California, commonly known as PORAC, which is the largest public safety organization in the state. Winslow succeeded Morrissey as head of the advocacy group’s Central Coast chapter, which fellow board members say has failed to keep a comprehensive record of meeting minutes for the past two years.

The faction of DSA members who plan to exit the group by July 1 unless Morrissey and Winslow resign said they’re in the process of finding another entity to manage their legal defense fund, which for many of them is the most important dues-funded expenditure.

“The texts are embarrassing,” said one member, who asked to withhold his name. “But combined with all the financial issues, I have no faith left in Morrissey’s ability to lead.”

Many DSA members became aware of the texting scandal with the rest of the public in late 2015 when the Mercury News broke news of the investigation into 3,000 messages. But few outside Morrissey’s inner circle knew about the discriminatory things he personally sent or responded to until his lawyer unsealed an arbitration opinion that upheld his 2016 demotion from sergeant to deputy.

Last week, San Jose Inside became first to report on the contents of the newly unsealed ruling, which cast Morrissey in an unforgiving light. The embattled union boss fell in rank from lieutenant to deputy in the span of five years for browsing porn at work and later for failing to report hateful text messages. But the veteran officer spun a narrative that cast him as the victim and the demotions as payback for supporting Smith’s re-election opponents in 2014 and again this year with Hirokawa.

Several union members said the recently unearthed arbitration ruling shattered their image of Morrissey as a persecuted whistleblower. Others said it made them realize how much of a liability he’s become.

“I wasn’t privy to everything before,” Sgt. Davis said in a phone call Friday. “But now that all this came out, it’s too much. It’s way too much. It tarnishes the profession and it tarnishes the department I work with.”

Revelations about Morrissey’s complicity in the hateful texts were enough to prompt PORAC to squeeze him off the executive board, for which he served as secretary and was running for vice president. They were also finally enough for Hirokawa—who has hesitated to condemn the union boss, citing concerns about privacy and free speech rights—to urge Morrissey to resign from the DSA.

“I believe he should step down, based on what I have today,” Hirokawa said.

He then added one of his usual caveats.

“But I still have questions about how his discipline was justified.”

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.

31 Comments

  1. These people have been threatening to leave the DSA for a couple years now. So what? Good riddance, not like they have contributed anything themselves. Morrissey has done more the DSA membership than any other board member in the last 20 years. The yellow journalism of Jennifer Wadsworth et al helping Laurie Smith bust the union won’t win.

    • CT- They are probably the same ones that have leaked personnel information to the press for the Metro’s friend, and Teflon Sheriff Smith.

      LOL! What cracks me up is that Smith doesn’t get that we all know what she’s up to. She wants an Amy Le running the DSA so she can control them too. Oh yeah, Amy Lee, we know you wrote a letter to PORAC trying to get them to join your Union’s small vote to support Smith, instead of John. LOL! Good luck with that!

  2. Sheez…what crap reporting. The union dues deduction has to do with the tax law changes. Union dues were part of the miscellaneous expenses that could be part of taxpayers’ itemized deductions (as long as they exceed 2% of adjusted gross income). Under the new law, miscellaneous expenses subject to the 2% floor — like union dues and other expenses incurred in the course of your job but not reimbursed by an employer — won’t be tax deductible. (source: CNN)

    Is there an ounce of integrity in your reporting, Jenn, or are you just a hack for other people? Here, let me help you with your research, hon http://lmgtfy.com/?q=union+dues+no+longer+deductible

  3. “I wasn’t privy to everything before,” Sgt. Davis ”

    Well Lamond, it’s funny how these same texts were presented at union meetings numerous times, put up for everyone to see by both Morrissey and the attorney over the course of time. The claims of ignorance are stunning.

    Going through this article, it’s a travesty against truth. smfh

  4. Oh, another Jennifer, the DSA is a 501(c)(6) – donations to them generally are not tax deductible from outside entities. That’s the law. They were deductible to the union as a business expense, not as a donation. So it was IMPOSSIBLE for them to lose their tax exemption due to anything Morrissey did or due to filings.

    “Contributions to section 501(c)(6) organizations are not deductible as charitable contributions on the donor’s federal income tax return. They may be deductible as trade or business expenses if ordinary and necessary in the conduct of the taxpayer’s business”

    This article of yours is just an embarrassment of riches when it comes to your ability to cull basic facts and offer them to the public.

  5. Funny watching “Casey Thomas” scramble and make excuses for poor leadership. Keep on chugging train wreck, your stop is quickly approaching! Chooooo chooooo!!

    • Let’s see you call John Hirokawa “zerokawa” when he is your boss and you are eating crow. It was fun while it lasted, huh? Too bad all your efforts to build the glass castle on sinking sand will soon all be vain. Maybe you will be taking orders from Casey Thomas after the election in November! Lol!!!

    • Zerokawa- Nahhhh. What’s funny is that these hit pieces are coming out just a few days before DSA members have to file with the county to withdraw from the DSA. Kind of wondering what Smith’s buddies are being promised in exchange for it.

      Another thing I find hilarious is that my understanding is, if true, is that Smith’s PR person is none other than Caserta’s. If they are one in the same, I guess she doesn’t mind working for a woman accused of sexual harassment, but not a man accused of it.

    • Scramble? Hey if your ok with being fed misinformation from an unethical media, that says far more about you than me. I’m good with what it says about me that I won’t stand like a silent sheep while a Republican sheriff utilizes untruthful and unethical journalists to attempt to fool the public and hide her fatal (literally) flaws.

    • Speaking of poor leadership, I’d like Zerokawa to tell us how they feel about the current leadership managing the Sheriff’s Office. Would you say they are doing a good job, and if so, why specifically? Talk about a train wreck.

      Is SJI/Metro going to just keep talking about Morrissey and the union? Or maybe it should take a close look at Smith and Hirokawa already, you know, those two people actually running for the Office of Sheriff.

  6. This piece is so biased. When are readers going to get an article that is more about information rather than doing a “favor for a friend.” Puh-leez…. “..added one of his usual caveats.” You purposely make Hirokawa out to side with Donald Morrissey. Pick and Pull journalism at its finest. I can appreciate Hirokawa not making comments on things he doesn’t have all the facts about. And based on what he had learned he was firm that Donald should step down. Pretty stinkin bold of Hirokawa to say even though he received an endorsement (pushed by Donald I’m sure) from the DSA. Hirokawa should be praised for his unwaiving approach to do what is right. This piece (and the one on the 20th) was meant to hurt John Hirokawa’s character and campaign. Plain and simple. If people cant see that, you are all blind. I was on the fence with our current Sheriff and Hirokawa. These articles have given me (and many others) the reassurance that the current Sheriff is sleazy enough to push a story like this. Wow. Just wow. And I’m sure this won’t be the last of the sliminess to come from the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office. Geez

    • Thank you for all your support. I do want to say the Hirokawa endorsement wasn’t pushed by Morrissey. The DSA has voted to support Laurie’s challenger for two election cycles now – 2014 and 2018. In 2010 the DSA was considering a vote to endorse no one, and Laurie tried to manipulate the board at that time to endorse her with no body vote. They were caught and members of the union forced a change in the bylaws so that can’t happen again. Ultimately Smith made s bunch of promises that earned her the endorsement. Promises in which she later broke every single last one after she won.

      The deputies do not like, trust, or respect Smith. Morrissey didn’t need to push anything.

  7. Funny how Laurie Smith, who received the endorsement from South Bay Labor, is okay to engage in a media campaign in an effort to undermine the DSA union. Reconsidering endorsements? South Bay Labor should reconsider their endorsement for Sheriff if they value the foundations of a union. If you can’t read between the lines in these stories, I have a bridge to sell you. Laurie Smith and her circle of incompetents are playing dirty early. How scared they must be of this runoff! Bottom line, the Deputies of the DSA can internally decide their own fate without commentary from Wadsworth or the Mercury News. Jennifer, when you get tired of working for Laurie Smith’s campaign and realize you’re being played/strong-arm’d into overlooking your principles of journalism. Please feel free to resume your day job!

    • SBLC is an embarrassment to unions everywhere. Run by a disbarred lawyer who was caught hiding exculpatory evidence in a number of cases as a asst district attorney. That’s the kind of person one would think any law respecting sheriff would avoid.

    • > If you can’t read between the lines in these stories, I have a bridge to sell you.

      You can keep the bridge, but I definitely CANNOT read between the lines.

      A Republican beloved by Democrat voters.

      Unions hating on unions.

      Rich Robinson running a winning campaign.

      Nothing seems to make sense.

  8. Modern day attempt at union busting! I could not help but chuckle at this piece. Pulcrano, can you be anymore obvious!? Are you running out of the salacious stuff to run!? And even those bits aren’t gaining her any traction among voters. This latest effort just reeks of desperation. And by the way – you still haven’t come clean or addressed questions and concerns about your relationship with Smith.

    And I also think it quite hilarious that LaMond Davis, known as Ray around the department, is chiming in here. Unfortunately for him, he is also known around the department as, well, let’s just say, not the sharpest tool in the shed. But I didn’t think he’d fall for this, and after all the years he’s personally known Morrissey. I believe they even went to the academy together. He knows Morrissey is undeserving of this. Did something change? Why now? What is she promising you? Promotion? Or did she just give you the old sad sob sorry. Poor Smith. Always the victim. Always someone else’s fault.

    And LaJeunesse! Really? Always one to criticize without suggestion for actual change or action. That’s called whining. And what would he know about the need for legal defense? He’s a career courts deputy who does not work the streets. Has he ever even worked patrol? From what I hear, he barely, and really should not have passed field training. He doesn’t know what it is to make decisions with potential legal implications.

  9. Where’s Michele Dauber in all of this?

    Sounds like the testosterone poisoned good old boys down at the Sheriff’s office are ganging up on the girl.

    I expect that if anyone but Laurie wins, Michele will get out her bullhorn and incite her mobs in support of a recall.

  10. Okay, let’s see. DSA lost its tax status, isn’t filing form 990s and isn’t accountable to the membership. The leader, Don Morrissey, is a sloppy operator who got caught in porn surfing, craigslist posting and texting scandals. There’s probably a lot more there. Members should be auditing the financials right away to make sure no money was stolen or embezzled. Union leadership should release the DSA bank statements to assure members that financial affairs were conducted properly. It is the union members’ money, and they deserve full transparency.

    • Cherry picked truths and misinformation. “surfing porn” was literally doing his job trying to identify prostitution on craig’s list in his WV district.

      I’m still waiting for Laurie Smith to agree to remove the legal gag order from the “surfing porn” and “posting on craig’s list” incident. Ask Laurie why she’s afraid to let Don Morrissey talk freely? Currently because the agreement, Morrissey is forced to remain silent or be fired. Laurie Smith has repeatedly violated that agreement without repercussions from the county or legal action. Let’s hear Morrissey’s side for a change before you believe everything you hear from Smith’s mouthpieces here. There is definitely more to the story the public should know – such as the fact the employee who claims to have been threatened by Morrissey in an attempt to hide the computer trail has changed his story several times – each time significantly worse – and has been promoted all the way to the highest civilian position despite just being a computer tech when this first incident happened. How does one make it all the way from tech, slubbing around changing people’s computers out, to the highest civilian position who’s gotten roughly $90K in raises and promotional improvements over the past few years? Mmmmmm…looks like he possibly changes his story for Laurie Smith so she can take out someone she’s accused of wanting to run for her office.

      Nice pay off for those willing to sell their ethics.

  11. A Pox on all of your SCC Governmental Agencies! We need to help Jennifer out here! She can’t do it alone. It is very clear that government at all levels in Santa Clara County is a huge CESSPOOL! That my friends is the big picture in SCC! Government in this county is both an obscenity and an embarrassment to the community and the government entitled unqualified but loyal to one another turkeys who are stealing our money, trying to have sex with our children, spewing racist obscenities, bullying and intimidating everyone must be called out and exposed ! The culture of Me First; My Family First; My Friends First must end.

    I propose that we institute a program similar to the People Behaving Badly Kron 4 program with Stanley Roberts. We can reframe the program as Governmental Officials in Santa Clara Behaving Badly. We can build a crowd-sourcing app where participants can seek out and find and communicate SCC government officials behaving badly which should be very easy to do. We can then crowd-source the event or office and post the resultant videos on the App. It will be great fun and it will expose the extensive nature of skullduggery, cheating, larceny, lying, racism. intimidation, and sexual harassment, and child sexual molestation that is rampant in Santa Clara County.

    Let’s do it! it will also add a bit of joie de vivre to the effort and it will also help Jennifer get some much needed rest!

      • True enough! It is amazing how these sleaze bags find a way to resurrect themselves elsewhere! I see this in education all the time where superintendents like John Deasy get caught misrepresenting their doctorates and then move on to Los Angeles where they get into trouble in pay for play business deals with Apple. Sick.

        I know we should just raise our hands and say I don’t give a f…ck! Believe me I am tempted as this is a very difficult nut to crack especially with scumbags who have no nuts!

  12. For what it is worth, LDF is a separate budget item within the dues. If like many POA’s it is a type of insurance Fund that slides up and down due to use. Laurie and Santa Clara County know this and they jump the Progressive Discipline System identified in the County’s Merit System Rules. They take all disciplinary actions to the max ( That is unless you have donated your max dontation the Mommy Dearest’s re-election fund). In an effort to Break the Association, they file every action they can against her enemies. ENEMY is defined as anyone who has not paid their blood money. If you have paid your EMORTA and kissed the ring you are GOLDEN. You can threaten fellow workers and members of the public with boldily harm, steal fellow workers Property, use any disparaging racial term to fellow workers or the Public and the Investigation will get KICKED DOWN TO THE DIVISIONAL LEVEL. There you will end up being admonished with a verbal counseling: “don’t get CAUGHT doing that again.”. It is a double standard. One likely already enjoyed by those who will TURN THEIR BACKS on their fellow Deputies and desert them rather than initiate change and reform under the By-Laws. Their actions only underscore they are doing it for their own selfish reasons of gaining favor.

    As far as Court Deputy Joe, we can now see the fruit of that meeting with Laurie that was caught on camera in those days before the election. As they say a picture is worth a thousand words. You enjoying Coffee with da BOSS who you are opposition to in an election, illustrates the true nature of your bid for Sheriff.

    Now to the one truest fact. Laurie Smith is a control freak. NOTHING HAPPENS WITHOUT HER SIGNING OFF ON IT. That is why she bought Amy Le, so she can control the SCCCPOA. That is why she is using Coach Ray to attack the DSA and their leadership. She wants control of the DSA. When she made John Hirokawa Chief of the DOC, she made him essentially a BUDGETARY OFFICER who was limited to reporting on the operation of the kitchen, clothing and laundry. His scope was VERY limited in that role. He could provide his thought or opinion, but in MOMMY DEAREST’S centralist control world hers is the only voice that matters! All others are there to be blamed or thrown under the bus when her policies fail in the public eye. It is never her fault!!!!! I would like someone to explain to me how a person obsessed with control like her, can be allowed to blame others for her failures?

  13. The residents of this County deserve better, unfortunately this runoff will not give that to them. The state of the Sheriff’s Department and it’s unions speaks for itself. There are systemic problems that continue to fester starting with the Current Board of Supervisors who run the jails, The Sheriff who manages the jails under contract to the Board of Supervisors, and now the unions who are supposed to represent the best interest of it’s members. The Deputy Sheriff’s Association represents Deputy Sheriff’s, while the Correctional Peace Officers Association represents Correction Officers and Correction Deputies. The public is clueless on their roles and responsibilities. As a retired Sheriffs Sergeant with 35 years of experience and former executive board member of the Deputy Sheriff’s Association I dismayed by the articles that address the problems of both unions. As a resident and taxpayer I find the existing conditions to be a waste of money and a black eye for Santa Clara County.

  14. While I was reading all the posts I couldn’t help but wonder what happened to a once proud sheriff’s department. More important, I have to consider what might happen if two officers who might be on opposite sides of this political mess needed a fill from a deputy who hates his politics.
    It’s one thing to disagree but some of the comments are hate filled and unwarranted.

    I remember a day when deputies were brothers, family. They took care of each other, picked each other up when they were down. Now it sounds like it’s every man/woman is on their own. Political differences are to be expected. However, law enforcement professionalism is a must if a department is to be respected. That burden lies with every one of you who carries a badge.

    The question becomes….what happened. Laurie Smith has been the sheriff for a very long time. Thus one has to consider that the decline of the department, the morale and the image it portrays is her fault. It happened on her watch. Most of you know she is vindictive and mean spirited to any one who crosses her. Revenge is her M.O. That seems to have trickled down to those under her command.

    Of course this doesn’t apply to everybody but from what I’ve read there’s too many of you at each other’s throat’s. Step back. Take a breath and consider how important it is for you to know you have each other’s back.

    I think what everybody needs to consider is…..do you want Smith to be your leader. Recent revelations of sexual harassment would sure as hell give me pause. If it was one individual making the allegations I would have to question the motives. But it’s not just one or two, it’s three. Do you really believe three ex deputies would go through the embarrassment of making these claims if they weren’t true? I doubt it. They have families, neighbors and friends who are going to see this stuff in the media. At the very least it’s embarrassing. At the most it’s humiliating and downright ugly. If you doubt the truth of the allegations just look at the photo of her, obviously intoxicated at a narco convention. It’s only a clue but it’s a pretty good clue as to her behavior.

    Almost everyday I read where somebody of note is being accused of sexual harassment. The vast majority have the good sense to step down from whatever position of power they occupy. Perhaps Laurie Smith should do the department a favor and step aside. Either that or continue to drag a once proud department further through the mud. That’s her choice, but in my opinion the mud bath is going to continue. And…….that’s a damn shame.

    • > Almost everyday I read where somebody of note is being accused of sexual harassment. The vast majority have the good sense to step down from whatever position of power they occupy.

      Steve:

      Possibly the dumbest thing you’ve ever said. But then again, I don’t have your complete record. I suppose that it IS possible for you to have said dumber things.

      If everyone who is accused of “sexual harrassment” steps down, that just makes the act of accusation into an ejection button under the control of the accuser.

      “Successful behavior is repeated”.

      Someone who doesn’t like you could even accuse you of sexual harrassment.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *