Is Sheriff Hedges missing in action?

January 26, 2010

Pat Hedges


Is San Luis Obispo County Sheriff-Coroner Pat Hedges actively running the sheriff’s department, or is he allowing a temporary employee to cover his repeated absences?

Following the retirement of Undersheriff Steve Bolts on Jan. 1, Hedges declined to hire a permanent replacement, instead creating a temporary undersheriff position and hiring Bolts back as an hourly employee. And even though Bolts says that Hedges continues to “be very much in charge of the department,” numerous inside sources allege that after Hedges announced he would not run for re-election, he has rarely been seen around the department.

“Hedges is gone most of the time and has Bolts do his work in his absence,” said one sheriff department employee who asked to remain anonymous. “If Hedges did away with Bolts, his salary could save two to three positions.”

In 2004, Hedges created the undersheriff position as part of a restructuring that retained the same number of executive administrators without an increase in cost by lowering one official’s salary and recognizing the retirement of another. In addition, the creation of the undersheriff position put a buffer between the sheriff and his staff.

“The position assures the sheriff has an assistant of the same mind,” Bolts said. “It is a more efficient way to run the department.

“The undersheriff goes away when the next administration is elected,” added Bolts, who announced he plans to step down from his current temporary position at the end of this year.

Hedges, who began working his way up in the sheriff’s department in the 1970s, left his lieutenant post after being elected sheriff in 1998. His administrative record is marred by lawsuits, allegations of lawlessness and accidental deaths.

In 2001, Gerald Bernales, 22, suffered serious brain damage while being tackled by a sheriff deputy during an attempt to flee. The county paid Bernales $2 million as a result of a law suit.

In 2004, Jordan Maithen died of suffocation while he was hog tied by sheriff deputies. The county paid $50,000 to settle the lawsuit.

In 2005, the county approved the payment of $650,000 to the children of Jay Vestal, 36, a man who died during an arrest attempt in 2003.

Also in 2005, 23-year-old Keith Yecny died while in custody at the county jail. Hedges said that excessive force did not play a role in the San Luis Obispo resident’s death. According to the coroner’s report, he died from lack of oxygen because of the toxic effects of methamphetamine.

In 2006, Hedges and Bolts secretly bugged Chief Deputy Gary Hoving’s office. Hoving filed a claim against the county and received an award of $660,000. A county investigation into the incident cost taxpayers $117,000.

In 2007, sheriff deputies arrested Charles Lynch for operating Central Coast Compassionate Caregivers, a licensed medical marijuana dispensary in Morro Bay.

In 2008, San Luis Obispo Superior Court Judge Martin Tangeman ordered Hedges to return medical marijuana to a San Luis Obispo resident with a medical marijuana recommendation.

In 2009, Hedges’ wife, Sandy Oneal-Hedges, called 911 to report her husband was verbally abusing her. Hedges’ deputies chose not to write an incident report.

In June, voters will elect a new sheriff-coroner. Current candidates include retired California Highway Patrol Sgt. Michael Teixeira, Sheriff’s Deputy Mark Adams, San Luis Obispo Captain and Public Information Officer Ian Parkinson, former Pismo Beach Police Chief Joe Cortez, businessman Kevin Faircourt, former county supervisor and San Luis Obispo Police Lt. Jerry Lenthall and Sheriff Commander Ben Hall. If none of the candidates receives more than 50 percent of the vote, there will be a runoff election in November between the top two candidates.

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What do I need to do to “run” for Sheriff ? Really . . .?

Face it, the voters have had ample opportunity to oust Hedges and haven’t done so. That leads me to conclude that with the exception of the malcontents on this Web site, overall, the voters in SLO County are satisfied with his job performance.

He’s done some stupid things — the Charles Lynch raid and prosecution in particular — that I don’t agree with. But overall, Hedges has been a good Sheriff. The people of this county are safer here than most anyplace else. Crime was down again in 2009 and isn’t that the true measure of a Sheriff’s performance, not how many people try to sue him.

I’d bet a Wall Street bonus that there have been far more claims made against Hedges and the Sheriff’s Office than have been reported in the media. Claims against cops are not subject to Public Records Act requests, so there’s no way of telling how many there have been or how many have been settled out of court. A cop’s privacy is protected by law too, so good luck squeezing information out of the government regarding a bad cop. Unless a civil case goes to trial or criminal charges are brought, the government can’t and won’t say whats’ going on.

Unfortunately, most people who have been wronged by the cops don’t have the stomach or the resources to take a case to trial, so they settle for pennies on the dollar, and the county forces in a non-disclosure clause in the settlement to keep them quiet.

Just be thankful that in June we get to pick a new Sheriff and he will start with a clean slate. I bet it doesn’t take 3 months before some scandal befalls a new Sheriff.

Sheriff Hedges isn’t hard to find. He lives on the waterfront in MB. I see him all the time. Can’t say how much time he spends at work though.

But I’d take some of the comments here, especially those involving the union mess with a grain of salt. Union elections are ugly affairs and the mud is bound to be slung all over the place.

As for the undersheriff, someone overseeing 250 armed employees should have a second in command. Anyone who has ever led such an organization (para-military) knows this. One of the first and most important things a commander does is pick his or her second in command.

Hedges has been in office for almost 12 years. Anyone that sticks around that long is bound to have some skeletons in their closet, some missteps and is bound to make some enemies.

Maybe we need to have term limits for this position. Two terms and it’s time to go…

Forget the term limits. Let’s impose a liability limit. Once $100,000 is paid out under an elected officials watch, then they go away. Measurable results of performance have long been used in fortune 500 companies and even governments with a gret deal of success. I would love to have an elected official perform and remain in office as long as possible, provided the quality control measure is in place. Hedges would have been gone within his first 18 months or so.

Like me the last line get’s you the negative, I understand and gave you a plus.

And I agree we need madatory term limits for anyone above the law, see what I mean.

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Why do we continue to put up with this bozo. Someone should stick a fork in him, he’s done. What a complete waste of our tax dollars to employ an idiot such as him. What a terrible leader. The DA should be charging him for ripping us off. Rot in hell Hedges along with your henchmen.

Didn’t Sheriff Hedges also dismantle the citizens’ oversight committee as well? Was that a “preemptive” move so that he could run the department in any way he wished, with absolutely no oversight? I wonder if a sheriff has ever been brought up on a RICO statute violation? Sheriff Hedges would seem to be a prime candidate, IMO. Would somebody explain to me why the Board of Supervisors simply rolls over on the Sheriff’s Departments budget requests? And when I have called in to Dave’s show and suggested that Sheriff Hedges be recalled some time ago when the episode of Mr. Lynch was unfolding, many thought I was being rash; I say I was ahead of my time. What a crook.

So is it public knowledge that Hedges (or is it Bolts) is basically dismantling the Detective Bureau and farming them out to substations where they may have even less time to work on cases if they’re expected to pull patrol shifts? This reorganization is going to affect how quickly and effectively detectives can work on cases. There will be less bodies working on investigations. Did I also mention it also appears to be payback by the top? It is awful coincindental that the detectives being punished were also part of the push for a new union due to the unethical behaviors of the current association and department leaders. Hmmm….

To cowardly to comment, I don’t want to leave this world just yet. I’ve had bouncers at bars tell me all I had to do was call this guy and drop their name and I could get a pass for almost anything, true story, name withheld to protect the bouncer.

Reply to my comment, wonder what the statistics are about how many of these incidents evolved cops recruited from Los Angeles, we have a saying here, you can take the officers out of LA, but you can’t take LA, out of the officers.

These two bafoons are actually local characters without police experience from out of the area. Most of the cash payouts were generated from local boys as well. The City of SLO hires alot of folks from out of the area but the reputation of the Sheriff’s department is too poor to attract many laterals. Sorry, can’t blame LA for the mess these two created.

Okay , local boys, lot of bad LA cops up here now, callus attitude, I’ll take the job right now,

I could run the show and a lot of people would be looking for new employment. Even though I could shoot better, make smarter decisions, kill less people, the law discriminates against me because I am above forty, even though there’s many a cop if put in a ring with me would get his *ss handed to him. Do away with the age qualification and get a volunteer sheriffs organization to help and let the old retired hunters who grew up here and know every rock tree and stone, turn over every stone to fight crime in this area, nothing like a 3X9 Leopold on a 7 millimeter mag, pointed at your neck to keep you in line, hey they would do it for free,!!!

This is really new, DUVALL for SHERRIFF. who don’t like it? And pay him 80 grand instead of 800!

The county has hired a number of deputies in their 40’s and 50’s and do not descriminate agaist age. Unfortunately, you must be smart enough to pass the test. Funny, there were hundreds of comments opposing the hunting of bear in SLO county but not one about you wanting to hunt people. Please seek some professional help.

Savesslocounty, get the facts, if they have hired any one over fifty you are dead wrong, highway patrol has it’s cut off at 40 (fact) I’m not sure about the good old boy sherriffs club seems they do what ever they want, now take your own advice and get a check up from the neck up.This you write,and it’s inflamatory and is out of line and I never said I wanted to hunt people, you are a freaky troll, “Funny, there were hundreds of comments opposing the hunting of bear in SLO county but not one about you wanting to hunt people. Please seek some professional help.” Save yourself learn to read the post correctly! Or put a bear suit on a march across my field.

Don’t forget the blind inmate who was released from county jail – at night – and forced to walk home along Highway One. Struck by a passing vehicle and killed. Hedges and his boys claimed no responsibility for the man once he’d been released from jail.

There should be something the State AG’s office can do in a case like this. Hedges has thumbed his nose at responsibility and nudged the limits of legality far too many times. What concerns me is all the stuff he’s done that no one knows about. I’m thinking most of this is just water we can see above the water line.

Is there any precedent for voters suing an elected official for dereliction of duty?

Oh my god I did forget about that, truly sickening, you understand my fears?

And the answer to your question it is not in the book I have, how to sue a government agency, I would take the same steps as if in a nuclear attack, bend at the waist as far as you can and unless your a yogi, blow a kiss goodbye, to your *ss. This is for one moment not meant to be a joke.