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Interim sheriff under fire

The state will review a complaint alleging that Jack Anderson broke the law in addressing San Clemente council.

January 23, 2008|Christine Hanley and Stuart Pfeifer | Times Staff Writers

The state attorney general is reviewing whether interim Orange County Sheriff Jack Anderson broke the law by appearing in uniform while trying to dissuade the San Clemente City Council from endorsing a former sheriff's lieutenant as a replacement for indicted Sheriff Michael S. Carona, who later resigned.

During a council meeting in November, shortly after Carona was indicted on corruption charges, Anderson, then an assistant sheriff, told the council members that Lt. Bill Hunt was not qualified to serve as Orange County sheriff.

Anderson has since announced his own desire to be the full-time sheriff. Hunt and several others also are considered candidates for the job.

Timothy R. Whitacre, a Hunt supporter during the 2006 sheriff's election campaign, filed the complaint with the attorney general's office last week. He alleges that Anderson violated a state law prohibiting non-elected law enforcement officers from appearing in uniform during political speeches.

The Orange County Sheriff's Department disputes that Anderson violated any laws and says that when he addressed the San Clemente council it was a matter of public policy, not politics.

Senior Assistant Atty. Gen. Gary W. Schons said his office would review the complaint but declined to discuss the allegations.

Whitacre, who provided a copy of his complaint to The Times, said he went to state prosecutors rather than the Orange County district attorney's office because of the close working relationship it has with the sheriff. Schons said he would weigh whether it was proper for his office to intervene. "It's important to have an objective eye look into all requests for investigations," Whitacre said.

Anderson, who did not respond to a request for an interview, was tapped by Carona to head the department just as the indicted sheriff was stepping down. A conservative political blogger reported that Carona told him that Anderson was named to give him an edge in the 2010 election.

The county Board of Supervisors has since approved Anderson's interim appointment while a search is conducted for a permanent replacement for Carona.

The complaint revisits events of the highly charged political race between Hunt and Carona. Hunt was serving as chief of police services in San Clemente under Carona when he decided to run against his boss, using the scandals dogging the department as his election theme. The day after Carona narrowly won reelection, he demoted Hunt to deputy for making statements during the campaign that he considered a violation of department standards. Hunt chose to retire instead and is now suing the department.

During a Nov. 20 meeting, the San Clemente City Council was considering sending a formal letter to the Board of Supervisors, asking it to appoint Hunt if Carona stepped down. The council voted unanimously against the idea after hearing from Anderson.

According to the complaint, Anderson traveled in a county-issued vehicle to the meeting and was wearing his uniform when he addressed the council, alleging that Hunt was properly demoted after the election and asking council members not to endorse anyone.

Whitacre asked the attorney general's office to determine whether Anderson violated a state law that prohibits local peace officers from participating in "political activities of any kind" while in uniform.

Whitacre also asked the attorney general to investigate whether Anderson used his county-issued cellphone or computer to discuss the City Council appearance with Carona, Assistant Sheriff Jo Ann Galisky or anyone else in the department. The complaint notes that state law prohibits the use of public resources, such as telephones and computers, for political purposes.

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christine.hanley@latimes.com

stuart.pfeifer@latimes.com

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