After a year of pressure from the county board of directors, Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith announced Thursday that she plans to retire in January and not seek re-election.
Smith, who has served as the county sheriff since 1998, said in her announcement“As a civil servant, you sometimes make powerful enemies.”
The Smith Sheriff’s Office is currently the subject of a civil rights investigation by the California Attorney General’s Office and a civil rights grand jury in December Corruption charges brought against Smith, and misconduct in handling an incident in 2018 in which a mentally ill inmate died while in the care of MPs. This and other cases of prisoner deaths prompted the Supervisory Board to do so last August pass a vote of no confidence in Smith. Smith is accused of providing covert gun permits to campaign donors and accepting the gift of a suite at a 2019 San Jose Sharks game. She continues to deny the charges related to the gun permits. according to court records.
Santa Clara County Attorney Jeff Rosen, whose office has been investigating the corruption allegations for several years, made a statement to ABC 7 and said, “We will have a new sheriff soon. This county deserves a sheriff who has the highest integrity and the community’s trust to protect and serve fairly and professionally.”
And County Supervisor Joe Simitian issued a statement saying, “This is an opportunity for new beginnings; I hope we all use them. These are challenging times for law enforcement. We need to protect the public and reform the system at the same time.”
As of this week, Sheriff Smith had continued to defy calls for her to resign or retire, suggesting she would be running for re-election in November. She and her attorneys have repeatedly blamed problems with violence and deaths in county jails on the county’s lack of mental health services.
But Smith apparently saw the writing on the wall and after 24 years of service, he likely doesn’t want to lose an election. As reported by the Mercury News, Smith never convened a re-election committee.
“I think it’s the best decision Laurie Smith could have made,” San Jose State Justice Studies professor Greg Woods said in a statement to ABC 7. “It allows us to restore trust in the institution, where we understand that there is no leader greater than the agency they lead.”
“This job will never be finished and it is with some regret that I announce my retirement from duty at the end of my term in January 2023,” Smith wrote Thursday. “My decision not to run for re-election was a very difficult one. There is still work to be done, but the interests of the people of our county must continue to be our first priority.”
Smith also said it would be “unfair to Santa Clara County voters to force them to make a decision in the middle of drama they didn’t make.”
As the Mercury News explains, a “seamless transition” Smith has announced could be thwarted depending on the outcome of corruption allegations, three of which she has not formally denied. That suggests Smith may not be serving her full term, but we’ll see.
Pictured above: Sheriff Laurie Smith addresses the media during a news conference near the site of a mass shooting at a Valley Transportation Authority light rail station on May 26, 2021 in San Jose, California. Photo by Philip Pacheco/Getty Images
Embattled Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith Announces Retirement Source link Embattled Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith Announces Retirement