By On the occasion of our 20th anniversary
By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
"My mother never saw the irony in calling me a son of a bitch," actor Jack Nicholson once quipped. Like Nicholson's mother, Orange County Sheriff Mike Carona doesn't grasp irony either. Allow me to explain.
In the June 6 election, Carona spent a million dollars more than his two opponents combined, and still only narrowly escaped a runoff election by 0.9 percent of the vote. Put another way: 49.1 percent of the voters wanted as sheriff someone other than Carona, the politician with the highest name recognition in the county and a man bold enough to brand himself "America's sheriff." Nevertheless, Carona called his victory "an affirmation" of his two terms as head of the $650 million-per-year police agency.
But that's not the irony of which we speak.
On the day after the election—actually, less than two business hours after the victory—Carona suspended Lieutenant Bill Hunt, his top challenger, from his department job as San Clemente police chief. Hunt's offense? During the campaign, he criticized the sheriff's management skills, underscoring charges that Carona uses promotions and demotions to reward or punish deputies based solely on personal politics and not merit. Carona also punished three of Hunt's supporters in the department. Though the sheriff's aides bragged privately that the moves were "payback," Carona denied it.
But that's not the irony of which we speak either.
Three weeks after the election, in which Carona claimed his management record is flawless, the sheriff asked the county's Board of Supervisors to pay $396,000 to Scott P. Bryant, a Virginia-based management consultant. Bryant's board-approved task? Study ways to improve the sheriff's "operational effectiveness."
But this, too, is not the irony of which we speak.
After demonstrating what happens to deputies who criticize his management, Carona now insists he's eager for Bryant to obtain the "perspectives" of deputies and other OCSD employees. The staff will be asked to "provide information on issues and recommend changes."
But sadly that isn't the irony we're speaking of either.
The same week that Carona hired Bryant for the consulting gig, he spent $12,500 in county funds for a "computer voice stress analyzer." The sheriff justified the purchase by saying the machine will help him determine when somebody's lying.
Now, that's an irony.