You can’t fire me! I’m leaving!
Leave it to Laurie Smith to mock the court system in her final act as Santa Clara County Sheriff.
Smith filed her resignation on Monday at a jury as to whether she should be shown the door. It came just two months before the end of her term of office.
It is a sad accusation by the judiciary system that it can avoid any significant punishment because it took so long to hear the case.
Smith should have resigned two years ago when the scale of her weakness first surfaced. At least she should have resigned last December, when the Santa Clara County Grand Jury called for her removal and charged her with six counts of corruption and willful misconduct.
Instead, it stopped and finished time. Now, almost a year later, San Mateo County Supreme Court Justice Nancy Fineman is ruling Wednesday on the motion of Smith’s attorney Allen Ruby to dismiss the charges. He argued on Monday that the penalty he would face – removal from office – was now irrelevant.
This argument is likely to be legally relevant, however unfortunate it may be. Allowing Smith to leave at this point in the process saves her from being accountable and robs the public of the necessary closure.
We first called the sheriff to resign in September 2020, after she invoked her Fifth Amendment to the Law against Self-Inclusion, appearing in a county jury as part of a pay-to-play hidden weapons investigation. Law enforcement officials must adhere to the highest legal and ethical standards and must cooperate fully with any criminal investigation. Refusing to answer sworn questions about whether she, a top county policewoman, knew about the corruption in her office, or worse, was involved in it, made her unable to hold office.
Then, in August 2021, the Supervisory Board unanimously approved a motion of no confidence in Smith and called for a civil investigation before a grand jury. Supervisors referred to excessive abuses in the district prison that cost taxpayers tens of millions of dollars; alleged criminal informer who was beaten up by more than 30 other inmates in November last year without the intervention of a deputy; and the San Jose Sharks play-off ticket scandal in which Smith allegedly circumvented the gift reporting laws.
A subsequent civil jury prosecution alleged that Smith engaged in political favoritism by using her control over issuing licenses to carry concealed weapons. The sheriff was also charged with failing to cooperate with the county law enforcement auditor in an investigation into allegations of inmate negligence in 2018 that resulted in a $ 10 million settlement in the county.
To this day, there is no penalty for Smith. And now, after resigning just two months before the end of his term of office, Smith will be shirked once more. This is not fair.
The system has failed Santa Clara County residents. They deserved a sheriff who was trustworthy and upheld the highest standards of law enforcement. Laurie Smith did not live up to this standard.
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