Sheriff Smith Dips Out of Jails Hearing before Public Comment

In her final remarks as head of a jails reform commission, former judge LaDoris Cordell stood in the front of the county Board of Supervisors and unleashed a flamethrower on Sheriff Laurie Smith, comparing her leadership to a pilot crashing a plane. Last summer three guards were charged in the murder of mentally ill inmate Michael Tyree, and tensions were definitely running high in the culmination of six months of work by the jails task force. By the time Cordell finished her verbal assault, the sheriff had walked out of the boardroom with a throng of reporters in tow. Smith has fired back in past interviews that the commission has overstepped its bounds and Cordell has misled the media. But for some in attendance Tuesday, the sheriff’s exit appeared to reinforce Cordell’s point about her cavalier approach. Ron Hansen, who serves on the county’s Juvenile Justice Commission, called the timing of Smith’s departure a little off-putting, even if she had another meeting. “You bring the hammer down on the close of the commission and you won’t stay around to hear the discussion?” Hansen said. “It wasn’t her finest moment, let me put it that way.” Inmate advocate Shaunn Cartwright, whose turn in line to speak came long after the sheriff cut out, called Smith’s actions contemptuous. “It looked like she took her toys and went home,” Cartwright quipped. Sheriff’s spokesman Sgt. James Jensen told Fly that Smith had a prior commitment at Piedmont High School in San Jose, where she presented a plaque to students who printed adorable T-shirts for the sheriff’s “K-9’s against bullying” campaign. Cordell, perhaps trading fire for ice following the meeting, told Fly she was too busy listening to the ensuing hours of public testimony to notice Smith’s early exit.

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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.


  1. Given Ms. Cordell’s penchant for virulent rhetoric, and assuming the sheriff is at all times armed, maybe we should chalk up Laurie Smith’s early departure to homicide prevention.

  2. The sheriff had an obligation as an elected official to remain and hear what the public has to say. Oh, I’m sorry… I forgot, the only obligation the sheriff has is to select politicians and her Sheriff’s Advisory Board and appropriate media… speaking of, can’t wait to see the other shoe drop defending the sheriff here at SJI… you going to dump that dirty job on Jennifer? She’s seems all in.

  3. Josh,

    No longer need to send me message to slow down on my posts when I see multiple for the other big 6 on posts. I am done. I am delating your site and moving on from SJI and your Mercury news connection.

  4. TOBY1981,

    I received that message a couple of times despite not having any recent posts… I think it’s a software glitch. I’d disregard it, wait a bit, then resend your comment.

    • Thank you Julie and Fin Fan, I do think it is time to move on, not sure there is even a purpose for posts since they do not make a difference to SJI. Seems this site is more of a reason for Josh just to get a reaction with no follow up to any person who can make a difference.

      Better off to send comments directly to someone who just might make a difference or have a vote. Best of luck to all.

  5. Laurie Is a douche. She destroyed the jails, after destroying the sheriffs department. Worst leader in the profession. We should have had Tiano. At least he lives in Santa Clara.

    • The guy who after he retired, was convicted of molesting children in 2001 who managed to sleaze out a 1 year sentence? And then was convicted for disappearing millions in a fraudulent charity, PSAL, sentenced to nearly 18 years in 2005? Seriously, not an alternative, no matter where he lived. That’s the green grass over the septic tank, my friend.

  6. I thought that the jails had cleaned up their act but I guess not after reading about the deaths. The beatings have been going on since the 80s. perhaps even longer, even back to when “The Goon Squad” was in operation giving “elevator rides” to unfortunate folks. Too bad, a few sickos get their thrills and we get the bill.

    • The jails did clean up their act. The last two needs assessments prior to Laurie Smith being handed the jails showed a system that still needed improvement, but was being recognized and accredited. Today, we have Smith, who has brought to the jails what she knows… all the failures of the 80’s that resulted in beatings, deaths, investigations, lawsuits and court oversight and there are 2 needs assessments post Laurie that show exactly that.

  7. I never thought I would be on the side of the judge, but this time I am. The Sheriff is no David Clark, and she lacks leadership on all levels, which perhaps addresses the real issue of those below her. She does not emulate qualities of a person that inspires supervision or leadership. The public that votes would not have anyway of knowing if a person retains these traits until they are in office. So yes, she needs to go.

  8. Laurie Smith showed her true colors when she showed zero lack of respect to not only her fellow commissioners, but to the public when she got up and walked out before they spoke. I had to laugh when I saw where she went afterward. To a high school for her anti-bullying program! I hope she took her own class because after the way she tried to publicly bully and intimidate Judge Cordell, she needs it.

    Secondly, she’s had the jails for six years now and they have gone down hill under her watch. You don’t get two and a half more years or do overs when 3 people have died, and an Officer is beaten so badly that he had to be hospitalized and have surgery.

    She really needs to resign. The Board of Supervisors need to stop protecting her, do the right thing, and remove her from the jails before someone else dies, gets beaten up, or goes without proper medical care and sues the crap out of them.

    And that overpriced private PR and consultant team she has needs to go too. The County already has paid employees she can use. Why are we tax payers paying almost 100 grand to these firms that protect her from herself? Ridiculous really.

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