Never mind that Sheriff Mike Carona has blundered, tripped and—let's be honest—screwed his way through scandal after embarrassing scandal.
Never mind that he promised he'd relinquish control of the powerful, $500-million-a-year agency after two terms. He's running again, and his own polls show he'd get about 70 percent of the vote if the June election were held today.
He's got reason to laugh, smile and party, in other words. Hell, he probably feels he can bend over and moon his critics.
But Carona's a disaster shaped like a man, and he could still find a way to turn the June election into his own Operation Iraqi Freedom. He could still lose.
Knowing that, on behalf of OC's journalistic community, I make this plea: please re-elect Mike Carona, and discourage your family and friends from even considering challengers Ralph Martin (RalphMartinforOCSheriff.org), Bill Hunt (BillHuntforSheriff.com) and Bob Alcaraz (BobAlcarazforOCSheriff.com). They're honest guys who'd likely return the sheriff's department to an agency that doesn't create crimes but solves them.
Carona is guaranteed controversy, usually involving the three key elements of a successful news story—sex, money and power. His departure would rob us of future stories about bribery, hookers, porn stars, incest, Vegas mob characters, guns and badges for friends, FBI raids, fake charities, gang rapes, illegal contributions, breakfasts with felons, bail-bond schemes, political spying, falsified records, money laundering, media intimidation, convoluted lies, patronage, secret financial deals, and unstable reserve deputies who go crazy on golf courses with handguns.
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Never mind the Weekly's own voluminous archive involving the sheriff. In the past two years, Sheriff Carona has given us these headlines - a Carona chronicles of sorts - in the Times and Register:
Jaramillo Says Ex-Boss Carona Should Be Facing Same Charges (3-25-06);Carona Donor Broke the Law: Newport firm illegally sent $25,000 from its investors to the O.C. sheriff's 2002 campaign, a state commission rules (3-22-06);
Carona Fails to Gain GOP Vote Support: Orange County party leaders decide not to endorse a third term for the sheriff. He faces multiple allegations of misconduct (3-22-06);Carona Wants Phrase Barred: Sheriff says challenger Bill Hunt's official election materials violate law banning attacks on opponents (3-18-06);State Probes O.C. Sheriff's Spending: Lockyer will determine if Carona illegally billed his campaign fund for unitemized expenses (3-16-06); Jaramillo, Charged Again, Insists He's Wrong Target: Ex-official faces more corruption counts but says it's Sheriff Carona the law should be after (3-15-06); April 24 trial date set for O.C. sheriff's captain: Carona campaign solicitations are crux of the case (2-18-06); Sheriff's spending report raises pointed questions (2-13-06); O.C. Sheriff Continued Claiming Expenses Without Itemizing: Michael Carona first used "loans" as a vague spending category, then stopped. But after that, he still failed to explain many expenditures (2-3-06); FBI on bribery case: subpoena seeks files from investigation of former top aide to Sheriff Carona (2-2-06); Reserve deputy's accusers present $10 million claim: Saying Carona associate drew pistol on them in July, two seek restitution from Orange County over golf-course incident (1-28-06);Carona Spent Without Offering Details: O.C. sheriff reported expenses as loans to his election fund without itemizing. Legally, outlays of $100 or more must be detailed (1-22-06); O.C. Sheriff's Attorney Fights Subpoena: State attorney general wants the lawyer to testify in a case involving a department captain (1-12-06); Carona charity donor denies bribe attempt: The Garden Grove businessman was fined in 1999 for offering $100,000 to a court official amid a family legal dispute (12-15-05); Only 10 O.C. Reservists Trying to Be Reinstated: Five other sheriff's deputies removed from state rolls fail to attend first day of classes (12-10-05); Sheriff seeks outside legal team: Carona asks for $100,000 to pay private attorneys to handle personnel matters (12-1-05); Few Want to Stay O.C. Reservists: Sheriff fought to keep his deputy appointees as peace officers, but only 15 of the original 86 plan to meet a requirement to attend a police academy (11-23-05); State Suspects Cover-Up in O.C. Donations Case: A political consultant to Sheriff Carona is believed to have tried concealing solicitations (11-16-05); Orange County, Calif., sheriff's reserve volunteer resigns amid scandal (11-12-05); Reserve Deputy Resigns During Probe: Member of O.C. sheriff's force, a Newport Beach restaurant owner, is investigated after he allegedly flashed his badge during a dispute (11-11-05); Carona donor under probe: Vegas club owner said to have mob ties (11-3-05); O.C. Attorney [Sheriff's friend of 26 years] Charged in Bail Bonds Scheme (11-8-05); Carona facing new allegations of harassment: Mission Viejo accuser has family ties to fired assistant sheriff accused of bribery (9-30-05); Hunt officially in sheriff's race: Lieutenant says Carona, who seeks re-election, has managed poorly (9-27-05); State to Probe Sex Assault Allegation Against Sheriff: O.C.'s Carona sought the move after a woman tied to an indicted ex-official said Carona made sex a condition of hiring her husband as a deputy (9-21-05); Lawyer Files Claim Against O.C. Sheriff: In a $5 million action, Cavallo accuses Carona of threatening him for representing ex-assistant sheriff Jaramillo in a bribery case (9-20-05);Carona accused of harassment: Sheriff denies Jaramillo in-law's allegation that he repeatedly pursued her for sex (9-15-05); Carona offered Jaramillo an out: Sheriff testified before grand jury that he wanted his close friend and aide to quit rather than be fired (9-13-05); Sex testimony revealed, denied: Transcripts indicate Jaramillo's sister-in-law said they had sex, which she repudiates now. "No comment" on affair with Carona (9-10-05); Sheriff's sister-in-law testifies in bribery case (9-9-05); O.C. Sheriff's Captain Faces 16 Charges: Veteran is accused of seeking contributions from her co-workers for Carona's campaign (9-7-05); Another O.C. Assistant Sheriff to Step Down: The resignation is the second in a week for Sheriff's Department (8-13-05); O.C. Reserve Deputy Is Suspended: Four felony counts are lodged against the man who is also the sheriff's martial arts instructor. He allegedly pulled a gun and raged at golfers (8-5-05); Former O.C. Official Is Indicted in Bribery Case: As assistant sheriff, he promoted a device for a company that paid him $25,000, according to grand jury charges. He pleads not guilty (7-26-05); OC Sheriff's department warned in 2002 of problems with reserves (7-21-05); O.C. Grand Jury to Probe Ex-Assistant Sheriff—Again (7-12-05); Unfit O.C. Sheriff's Reservist Was Reinstated: Businessman was forced out, then served nearly three more years. Ex-top aide faults Carona (6-28-05); Carona plea to hire law firm is put off: Supervisors strike from their agenda sheriff's request for $300,000 to restore peace-officer status to friends, donors (6-28-05); Sheriff seeks OK to hire lawyer for reserves case: Legal effort to get disqualified officers reinstated would cost $195 an hour (6-24-05); Hunt blames Carona for agency's "turmoil" (6-7-05); O.C. Sheriff Made Donors His Deputies: Friends, relatives were also among the 86 who received badges, even though some lacked training. Carona says there was no public risk (5-26-05); Gabbard says he masked 'bribe': Businessman says he listed Jaramillo check as consulting fee (4-27-05); Sheriff becoming a prisoner of his own silence (4-25-05); Besieged sheriff's route to re-election couldn't be more morbid (4-24-05); Release of Jaramillo Info Riles Judge: An alleged sexual relationship between the former official and his sister-in-law is reported (4-22-05); 'America's sheriff' has troubles right here: Carona pleads ignorance of alleged shady dealings going on in his department (4-22-05); A "disturbing" picture: Grand jury testimony from a sheriff's detective describes a sexually charged culture in the department administration (4-22-05); Missing Records Stalled Jaramillo Probe: After seeking reports on events involving the fired O.C. assistant sheriff, the D.A.'s office was given some only months later (4-21-05); Witness Says He Paid Bribes to Fired Assistant Sheriff for O.C.: A businessman testifies that he disguised payoffs as consulting fees to George Jaramillo, who is accused of misusing public resources (4-19-05); For a while, tainted donor was on right side of Carona: The sheriff endorsed Gabbard's laser chase device but denies knowing of illegal contributions (4-15-05); Carona [who promised only two terms] says he'll run for third term (4-8-05); Former Orange County assistant sheriff alleges he was forced to give misleading information and was wrongfully terminated last year (3-23-05); Fired assistant sheriff says boss violated rights, broke law (3-22-05); Carona Rides Out Year of Strife: Controversies may haunt Sheriff's Department into 2005, but some supporters say the worst is over (12-27-04); Former OC assistant sheriff's son goes to jail (11-17-04); Good Works Are the Point, Carona Says: O.C. sheriff, whose foundation's records are sought as part of a criminal probe, hopes focus stays on the millions going for kids (10-8-04);Sheriff's charity lost tax-exempt status: An attorney for Mike Carona's foundation disputes state claims (10-7-04); Sheriff's Charity Group Probed: A federal grand jury subpoena seeks records from O.C.'s Mike Carona Foundation (10-5-04); O.C. Sheriff's Shining Star Now Smudged: The departure of two top aides—one with a son accused of gang rape and another accused of corruption—could hurt Carona politically (10-4-04); Jaramillo allegedly eyed big payday: D.A. says ex-sheriff's official was to get $640,000 if company sold (10-1-04); Ex-Lawman Jaramillo Faces Six Felony Counts, Pleads Not Guilty: Former top aide to O.C. Sheriff Carona is accused of misusing public funds to promote a product (9-30-04); Former Orange County assistant sheriff denies corruption (9-27-04); Don Haidl Quits as Assistant Sheriff: The O.C. businessman cites the 'heartbreaking and burdensome' difficulties of the gang-rape allegations against his son (9-25-04); Conflict of Interest in Probe of Sheriff? Orange County activist says it's possible because of overlapping relationships between an associate of Carona and Rackauckas (8-16-04); Home of ex-Carona aide searched: Authorities investigating accusations of money-laundering are mum on findings at residence of former assistant sheriff (8-7-04); Carona Campaign Admits Getting Illegal Donations: At least 10 contributors received cash or stock from a supporter who was trying to market a laser device as a law-enforcement tool (8-6-04); O.C. crime rate much higher than reported: Sheriff's Department blames software and human error for mishandling of 15,000 reports (7-21-04); Young Haidl Lands in New Snarl: Son of a sheriff's official is questioned about sex with a minor this week in San Clemente (7-15-04); Super Security for O.C. Sheriff: Michael Carona travels with a team of detectives as bodyguards. Critics call expense unneeded (7-12-04); OC grand jury report cites climate of fear in sheriff's department (7-2-04); Carona spends 90 minutes testifying before grand jury: Department faces allegations of obstruction, campaign-finance violations (5-11-04); A High-Placed Father With Son in Trouble: An O.C. sheriff's official laments the gravity and publicity of a gang-rape case targeting his son and others (4-26-04); Jaramillos, inventor go before grand jury: George Jaramillo and his wife were paid to promote a device to stop vehicle pursuits when he was assistant sheriff (4-23-04); Rocky times for sheriff: Mike Carona discusses controversies that could tarnish his career and thwart political ambitions (4-10-04); Carona's money team too green? Critics blame fund-raising scandal on sheriff's hiring of inexperienced friends (4-4-04); OC sheriff hires political consultant for damage control (3-30-04); Scandal Prompts Sheriff to Revise Campaign Reports: Change reflects cash spent on party by man who funneled funds to O.C. official's war chest (3-30-04); Carona taps GOP insider for help: With inquiries a threat to his political ambitions, the sheriff turns to Michael Schroeder, who has ties to the D.A. (3-30-04); A tight-knit group: Some of Orange County's top law-enforcement and political officials share strong personal and business ties (3-30-04); Sheriff knew of donor concerns: But Carona says he was assured by his chief fund-raiser, Lisa Jaramillo, that the contributions were legal (3-29-04); O.C. Sheriff Dogged by Scandals: Campaign cash, rape probe could harm Carona's plans (3-28-04); Two tales of sheriff's accuser emerge: Some say Gabbard, who implicated Carona in fund-raising scam, is trustworthy. Others disagree (3-28-04); Businessman who bankrolled sheriff's campaign is convicted felon (3-27-04); Investors' Funds Sent to Sheriff: An Orange County firm selling a safety device donated stockholder money to '02 campaign (3-26-04); Carona donor gave illegally: Sheriff says he had no idea businessman's $29,000 in contributions were intended to gain his support for laser device (3-26-04); FBI Probing Payments to Jaramillo: Agents asked a company marketing a police product why it paid the O.C. sheriff's fired No. 2 man and his wife $25,000, a lawyer says (3-24-04);FBI Raids Office of Fired O.C. Official: Allegations of public corruption against the sheriff's former No. 2 man spark a search (3-23-04); Fired Sheriff's Aide Denies Taking Bribes: Orange County department officials say they have been contacted at least three times by bail bond companies concerned about jailhouse corruption (3-20-04)