Girls Trouble

Happy New Year: now youll pay for the sheriffs alleged sex romps

Acid must have bubbled in Carona's stomach. The last thing he wanted was for the contract to be tied to his sex problem. Brutal headlines might follow. He'd always pitched himself as a fiscal conservative; anti-government-waste folks might brand him a hypocrite.

But to the sheriff's relief, Norby prematurely abandoned his line of questioning. He said he'd "reluctantly support" the agenda item. The other three present supervisors—Bill Campbell, Tom Wilson and Lou Correa—quickly voted yes as well and then turned their attention to microfiche conversion services.

The following day, The Orange County Register and the Times reported the board's decision. But they didn't tell their readers the real reason for the spending. Or that the $100,000 price tag is a fraud.

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Last summer, the sheriff—a self-styled Christian conservative—acted carefree in public about the sex stories. During television interviews, for example, he and his aides implied that his female accusers were lunatics. In private, however, Carona panicked. He eventually threatened retaliation against anyone who makes new allegations.

(It's worth noting here that Carona presides over a $500-million-a-year agency, several thousand employees and a hefty intelligence apparatus, and serves as adviser to President George W. Bush on homeland security issues.)

The sheriff's threat was made in an unambiguous voice-mail message left for defense attorney Joseph G. Cavallo, a 26-year drinking buddy, who faces criminal charges in an alleged jailhouse bail bonds scheme. Cavallo—famous for his spirited defense of gang rapist Greg Haidl, son of Carona pal Don Haidl—represents Jaramillo. Prosecutors have charged Jaramillo with bribery for his involvement with a convicted felon he met through the sheriff.

I digress.

The point is that the sheriff believes his threat, exposed by the Weekly in October (see "Sex, Bribes and Jailhouse Scams," Oct. 14), might not adequately discourage other women from talking. Thoughts of the potential damaging revelations of one woman in particular have, according to sources close to the sheriff, motivated Carona to consider dropping out of the race.

The sheriff—seen as invincible before the sex reports and a long series of revelations about mismanagement and corruption—faces a likely ugly re-election battle against San Clemente Police Chief Bill Hunt, Los Angeles County Sheriff's Commander Ralph Martin and retired LA deputy Robert Alcaraz. But Carona doesn't want to spend personal or campaign funds on his legal troubles with women. Hence, the need to hire Jones and Mayer. It'll be the law firm's taxpayer-funded job to oversee private detectives who will dig up dirt on the female accusers and try to encourage their retreat.

How do we know this? Let's examine the terms of the contract the board approved. The loopholes—none of which were mentioned during the public discussion—are revealing.

De Mayo repeatedly told the supervisors that the total cost to taxpayers would be capped at $100,000 for the next year, but that's outright deceitful. A copy of the deal obtained by the Weeklyshows Jones and Mayer can circumvent public scrutiny and board approval for spending above the cap by hiring additional "consultants" for Carona. The fine print, written by de Mayo himself, allows de Mayo to personally approve an unlimited number of consultants—attorneys and private investigators—at up to $150,000 per person.

In other words, if Jones and Mayer hires just four additional consultants, the price tag could jump to more than $700,000.

It gets worse.

Devised over several months by de Mayo and Carona, the contract has another loophole: taxpayer-funded expenses. Does the sheriff have women in eight California counties? The consultants secured pre-approval for all travel expenses for Orange, Los Angeles, Riverside, Imperial, San Diego, Santa Barbara, Ventura and Kern counties.

What all this suggests is that Carona, the county counsel and the Board of Supervisors believe there is merit to the sex claims. Why else would they go to such lengths to mask the real deal with Jones and Mayer? Why else would they write a blank check for Carona's defense?

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