In a letter to the Board of Supervisors on Monday, the Sacramento County counsel said Sheriff Scott Jones can continue to obstruct independent investigations of his department.
The board must obtain a change to the county charter if it wants to stop Jones from blocking Inspector General Rick Braziel’s independent investigations of the department.
Counsel Robyn Truitt Drivon wrote that although the board has budgetary discretion to select someone to investigate the department, the supervisors can’t “direct the Sheriff, or any other elected County official, to conduct the official's statutory (or constitutional) duties in any particular manner.”
Jones announcement in September that he was rescinding Braziel’s ability to access county buildings, jails and crime scenes prompted supervisors to ask counsel if they could compel the sheriff to cooperate with investigations.
But Drivon wrote that the county charter “does not provide clear direction of the Board over the Sheriff at present.”
The county counsel also said it is unlikely a court would side with the board if supervisors filed a lawsuit against Jones.
The sheriff was critical of an August report from Braziel that said deputies fired an "excessive" and "unnecessary" number of rounds during the fatal shooting of Mikel McIntyre in 2017.
Jones called Braziel's report that of a "layman," even though Braziel was a police officer for 33 years, including serving four years as Sacramento’s police chief.
After the sheriff blocked Braziel, the sheriff went to the board with a proposal to strip the inspector general of his ability to launch misconduct or use-of-force investigations of the department, and would mandate weekly check-ins with Jones’ or someone from his office.
The board will discuss on Tuesday Jones’ proposal, under which the inspector general would have his annual contract renewed by the county executive “in consultation with the Sheriff.”
Jones and Braziel were not immediately available for comment.
McGeorge School of Law professor Clark Kelso says an independent investigator is common and important at the state and federal level.
"I think that is one of the good protections against possible abuse and misconduct in an organization. If your audit function is purely internal, it tends to take all of the teeth out of the audit function,” he said.
The board of supervisors appointed Braziel as inspector general in December 2015.
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