Mini turf tiff?

monosupervisorsA personal objection or defense of turf? Mono County courthouse watchers are kicking that one around when it comes to a Supervisor’s wish to delve into the Sheriff’s Saturation Patrol in August and the Sheriff’s mind-your-own-business response.

Supervisor Tim Fesko mentioned in a Board meeting earlier this month that constituents and others had complained about the stepped up patrol and the perceived targeting of Burning Man participants. Supervisor Larry Johnston wanted to talk about sobriety checkpoints. Mono Sheriff Ralph Obenberger was sitting in the audience on other matters.

Later, Supervisor Fesko told Sierra Wave Media that there were questions from the Board about constituent concerns. Said Fesko, “It’s our job to go ask those questions so we have proper answers.” Fesko said locals and visitors questioned the increased Sheriff’s patrols during the Burning Man event in Nevada. The Sheriff said the Board should not have brought up those questions in public.

Mono Undersheriff Ralph Obenberger

Mono Sheriff Ralph Obenberger

On December 10th, Sheriff Obenberger showed up in the Boardroom with a phalanx of officers to read an open letter to the Board. The short version – He is in charge of his Department and the Supervisors have no say over his policies. They do vote on his budget and numbers of employees. The Sheriff wrote, “The Board of Supervisors does not determine the type of law enforcement services provided to the citizens and/ or visitors of Mono County. That is the purview of the Sheriff,” he said. The Sheriff’s letter says that his office is “an independent constitutional office, and as such, we work for the constituents of Mono County.”

Supervisors Fesko and Johnson said they just thought dialogue on law enforcement matters would help. Sheriff Obenberger told Sierra Wave that it “irked him that the Board was questioning his staff’s professionalism.” As for discussions in the Boardroom on law enforcement, Sheriff Obenberger said, “If there’s an issue, they should bring it to my office and to me personally.” Supervisors Fesko did go to Obenberger’s office on December 9th to talk about these issues. After saying Fesko had never come to his office, the Sheriff said, yes, he did come over to “apologize.”

The Sheriff said he took it that the Supervisors want control of his Department. He said, “The only one who can control policy is the Sheriff.” Obenberger said the Board “went too far.”

Supervisor Larry Johnston wanted to talk about DUI Checkpoints, but the Sheriff pointed out his Department does not conduct those events. Johnston said he would like to have a discussion with the Sheriff on these matters and feels such a discourse is proper. Said Johnston, “I hope the Sheriff sees we’re not being disruptive of his organization or making accusations.”

Supervisor Fesko said he was trying to explain what he had heard about the Saturation Patrol and arrests. He said he just wanted to know why there was such a large enforcement this year. Said Fesko, “A discussion needs to take place in an open, fair, unthreatening manner.”

December 10, 2013  (Letter from Mono Sheriff Ralph Obenberger)

To the Honorable Mono County Board of Supervisors and Citizens of Mono County,

At the December 3rd 2013 Board of Supervisors meeting two of you questioned law enforcement actions taken by my Office, at points referring to individuals associated with ‘Burning Man’. Supervisor Fesko, you said you wanted to have a discussion about policy referring to law enforcement techniques, specifically traffic stops.  Supervisor Johnston, you wanted to possibly change policy relating to the use of sobriety checkpoints, and said you were aware of trade-offs if such changes would occur.

The Office of the Sheriff is an independent constitutional office, and as such, we work for the constituents of Mono County.  The Board of Supervisors does not determine the type of law enforcement services provided to the citizens and/or visitors of Mono County, that is the purview of the Sheriff.  The Board of Supervisors has two responsibilities in dealing with my Office.  One is to provide a yearly budget and the second is to authorize the number of employees.  These responsibilities are delineated in California Government Codes and within those codes it specifically states that the Board shall not affect or obstruct the independent functions of the Sheriff.

As Sheriff, I took an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States of America, the Constitution of the State of California and am also guided by the California Government Code. I have to maintain a jail, provide civil services, coroner services, search and rescue, court security and manage emergency services for the county.  Coupled with that, I have various specialized details such as Boating, Off Highway Vehicle patrol (OHV), Mono County Narcotics Enforcement Team (MONET), and K-9 that augment routine patrol services.  All of these are done with the budget you the Board of Supervisors approves on a yearly basis and/or with state and federal grant funding.

The Sheriff’s Office has received both written and verbal ‘thank you’ letters, phone calls, and other correspondence for the services we provide, even relating to the numerous arrests that were made on or around the ‘Burning Man’ festivities timeframe.  Some of the correspondence stated ‘Keep doing what you are doing,” and “I wonder how many date rapes didn’t occur because you took the drugs off the street.”  These positive comments have come from residents, visitors and various agencies that we deal with on a daily basis.

I expect and demand from my staff professional, courteous and fair law enforcement and I am confident they are providing it.  I have given them discretion to handle their encounters with the public to both serve the individual and the public at large using their judgment, the law and their years of training and experience to ensure fair administration of justice.  Any type of encounter with law enforcement can be uncomfortable and stressful for both the citizen, and sometimes the deputy, but the Sheriff’s Office has a job to do. We get that job done, even though we cannot make everyone happy, all of the time.

As the Sheriff I value and appreciate any feedback, positive or otherwise, from the public that could enhance the operations of the Sheriff’s Office as it is my intention to make the Mono County Sheriff’s Office the best it can be.

I will continue to use any lawful means available and productive in protecting the people of Mono County from crime.

It is an honor to serve the residents and visitors to Mono County.

R. Obenberger

Sheriff, Mono County

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42 Comments
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Mngru
Mngru
7 years ago

Lone Reader, it’s unlikely that pelope who make statements similiar to yours were voting for the current administration anyway. Consider this a validation of what you already thought and seize the opportunity today and vote for change.

really?
really?
7 years ago

So, two members of the Mono Board of Supervisors, who have also sworn to uphold the constitution of the US and the State of California, want to pick and choose what laws the Sheriff’s department decides to uphold? They think they know more than the Supreme Court, who has deemed… Read more »

Benett Kessler
Benett Kessler
7 years ago
Reply to  really?

The items you bring up about the Assessor do not constitute conflicts of interest as you have presented them. To make sure our story was clear, Supervisor Johnston wanted to discuss checkpoints. No one was strong-arming a constitutional court fight.
Benett Kessler

John
John
7 years ago

Obenberger must be a good Sheriff. He came highly endorsed by Hap Hazard.

Pedro
Pedro
7 years ago

Smells like a duck, but does it walk like a duck…? Prove Bridgeport “saturation patrol” was de facto narcotics interdiction checkpoint and it’s unconstitutional. No alternate route to opt out, forces you to slow down to point where officers can observe you and interior of vehicle closely, making and publicizing… Read more »

Desert Tortoise
Desert Tortoise
7 years ago
Reply to  Pedro

When you take a motor vehicle onto a public highway you have given your consent to be stopped and produce proof of registration, insurance and your driver’s license. It is called implied consent. If you don’t like it, don’t drive. Driving a motor vehicle is a privilege earned by passing… Read more »

Benett Kessler
Benett Kessler
7 years ago

Dear DT,
Hope you take a much-needed respite during the holidays for a bit of meditation, perhaps an intoxicating egg nog (not while driving!) and a blissful few moments watching “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
Cheers, Benett

Just Curious
Just Curious
7 years ago

Eastern Sierra Local, Can you provided any examples or cases that you can provide factual evidence to support your claim of illegal search’s or stops where done? Because if Im not mistaken pointless and less than factual claims such as yours are what started this whole BOS, Sheriff issue? Just… Read more »

Eastern Sierra Local
Eastern Sierra Local
7 years ago

The irony of his comment “I uphold the US Constitution (sic)” yet the Constitution prohibits EXACTLY what his office did, illegal search and seizure!

Reality Check
Reality Check
7 years ago

ESL, EXACTLY what illegal search and seizure are you talking about???

Please be specific.

Shine
Shine
7 years ago

Let Grand Jury sort it out.

Watchdog
Watchdog
7 years ago

There is a growing consensus that this group of Mono County supervisors is the most incompetent ever. Self-serving, pretentious, arrogant, and not what you might call full of integrity whose only desire is to make the community better. Total political and ideological games from them and nothing more.

Benett Kessler
Benett Kessler
7 years ago
Reply to  Watchdog

Examples?
Benett Kessler

Desert Tortoise
Desert Tortoise
7 years ago
Reply to  Benett Kessler

There you go asking tough questions again. 🙂

Holding their feet to the fire
Holding their feet to the fire
7 years ago
Reply to  Benett Kessler

Kudos to the sheriff for his willingness to butt heads with the worst, self-cherishing group of supervisors in Mono County history: the fish mogul who used his power to throw our money at his fish industry buddies; Johnston, who spearheaded the demoralizing power-broker tactic to reduce salaries of every department… Read more »

Conflicts of interest and censorship
Conflicts of interest and censorship
7 years ago
Reply to  Benett Kessler

Examples WERE provided. One example cited concerns possible conflict of interest from a supervisor (who has purchased advertising space on this blog) has been mysteriously and unceremoniously deleted.

When censorship comes to a society – that society is no longer a free one.

Benett Kessler
Benett Kessler
7 years ago

I don’t get what you’re saying (?)
BK

Watchdog
Watchdog
7 years ago
Reply to  Benett Kessler

Okay, I’ll play along. A supervisor (who happens to advertise on this format) convinced his fellow supervisors to monetarily assist the industry he formally built. On his site, he suggests this move is entirely kosher to the taxpayer since he no longer belongs to that industry therefore there is no… Read more »

Benett Kessler
Benett Kessler
7 years ago
Reply to  Watchdog

I don’t see any silence here, and Matthew Lehman is still in the real estate business, even though he has said he will take no commission if the Town buys the wood site. Alpers is not in the fish business. End of story.
BK

Watchdog
Watchdog
7 years ago
Reply to  Benett Kessler
Benett Kessler
Benett Kessler
7 years ago
Reply to  Watchdog

This three-year-old article offers no surprises. Alpers changed directions in his life. He also happens to know a lot about fisheries and DFG. Bottom line, he divested his interest in Conway Ranch.
BK

No conflict?
No conflict?
7 years ago
Reply to  Benett Kessler

Subject co-founds local industry (fish) Fish industry takes a downward turn Subject runs for public office and wins Fellow supervisors vote to focus on fish industry Subject maintains he has divested all interest in fish industry Subject buys advertising on local blog – claiming no conflict of interest PT Barnum… Read more »

Benett Kessler
Benett Kessler
7 years ago
Reply to  No conflict?

Nowhere in your list is there an obvious conflict. As you know, fishing has long been a major part of summer tourism. This is not some new and surprising focus by the Mono Board. Mr. Alpers’ advertising his website on our website will never prevent me from reporting on his… Read more »

Watchdog
Watchdog
7 years ago
Reply to  Benett Kessler

” Matthew Lehman is still in the real estate business, even though he has said he will take no commission if the Town buys the wood site.” We all know politicians and elected officials would never try to BS anybody. If a politician tells the media something – we all… Read more »

Benett Kessler
Benett Kessler
7 years ago
Reply to  Watchdog

No joke, where’s your evidence of truth?
BK

H
H
7 years ago
Reply to  Watchdog

While I totally disagree with your generalized comments regarding the current Board of Supervisors, I do have a problem with Mr. Johnston’s involvement with this issue. Some feedback for Larry, please don’t get a “god complex” and think you can solve every issue and work within your limits as a… Read more »

$200K a term for what?
$200K a term for what?
7 years ago
Reply to  H

By the way “H”, are you a former (or current) Mono County supervisor who is raking in almost $50,000 a year (that’s almost $200,000 a term + benefits, car allowances and perks) for showing up twice a month at meetings?

Watchdog
Watchdog
7 years ago
Reply to  H

The power-brokers who earn $200K per term are clearly out of control.

Spurious Sheriff
Spurious Sheriff
7 years ago

My understanding is this man had 5 uniformed deputies from the Bridgeport office attend this meeting and numerous others not in uniform. I am sure this is the THREAT Fesko spoke of when he said “A discussion needs to take place in an open, fair, unthreatening manner.” If this man… Read more »

Desert Tortoise
Desert Tortoise
7 years ago

You know a lot of us were not exactly upset at the DUI checkpoints. There are lot of loadies among the “Burners” driving up US 395 and many of us want these check points out there to find and arrest them. Just because you didn’t like it doesn’t mean a… Read more »

John Barton
John Barton
7 years ago

Ralphy O. is notorious for using intimidation and harrassment as a tool to try and get what he wants. Ask John Madrid. Ralph has a civil lawsuit coming his way and a number of deputies. At least his statements to the Supervisors only proves it is the Sheriff’s department who… Read more »

Trouble
Trouble
7 years ago

What a ass!

Benett Kessler
Benett Kessler
7 years ago
Reply to  Trouble

an ass.
BK

Ken Warner
Ken Warner
7 years ago
Reply to  Benett Kessler

While all you pedants are taking the time to be pedantic, why don’t you also take the time to quash the invective? There are a lot of good points lost in the maelstrom of unnecessarily snide comments.

Benett Kessler
Benett Kessler
7 years ago
Reply to  Ken Warner

That was a grammatical correction. Use “an” before words with vowels. An elephant. Snide is better than invective.
BK

Mongo The Idiot
Mongo The Idiot
7 years ago
Reply to  Benett Kessler

I’m stuck on an phalanx… It’s OK, I’ll just shift my attention to image of the week! And what a beauty it is. It looks to me like one of those pictures I would like to paint, except it may look contrived in oil and canvas. The picture defies logic.… Read more »

Tim
Tim
7 years ago

He may be technically correct that the Sheriff is in charge of the Sheriff’s Department, he should remember that the Supervisors have a major impact on his budget. He apparently never learned that honey is better than what he laid out in what he spewed out. The whole “they should… Read more »

Desert Tortoise
Desert Tortoise
7 years ago
Reply to  Tim

The sheriff is elected by the public. If he is not satisfying the public, he can be voted out. You might view him as incompetent, but apparently a majority of those who voted did not share you view of the Sheriff. As far as the Sheriff being “technically right”, read… Read more »

Benett Kessler
Benett Kessler
7 years ago

Point of accuracy – The Board of Supervisors appointed then Undersheriff Ralph Obenberger to the position of Sheriff when former Sheriff Rick Scholl retired.
Benett Kessler

Big Rick OBrien
Big Rick OBrien
7 years ago
Reply to  Benett Kessler

AND, don’t forget that the “under-sheriff is an ” at will” employee who can be dumped at anytime for cause. Thankfully, and hopefully, the citizens of Mono County only have to endure this BS from Obie and his Toby for 6 more months.

Big Rick OBrien
Big Rick OBrien
7 years ago

Anyone that didn’t know that the current Mono County Sheriff was NOT elected shouldn’t be commenting on his short-comings.

Big Rick OBrien
Big Rick OBrien
7 years ago

” He is in charge of HIS department and the Board of Supervisors have no say over his policies”? MAYBE they don’t, but I’m sure they have a say in who they (appointed) Sheriff and they could rip that badge right off his chest. Just one more example of Ralphy… Read more »