Sheriff Carona Takes Two-Month Vacation

Halfway through today's intensely dull OC Board of Supervisors meeting, during which the supes hemmed and hawed about whether to allow county voters to demand elected officials under indictment take a paid leave of absence, board chairman Chris Norby paused to read a letter from Sheriff Mike Carona, who, in case you didn't know, was indicted last week by a federal grand jury for a slew of corruption charges.

In his letter, Carona announced he was—you guessed it—taking a two-month paid leave of absence effective Nov. 9 so he can fight the charges against him. His timely letter pretty much invalidated the entire purpose of the supervisorial debate, but unmercifully it continued for another couple of hours before the board voted 3-2 against Supervisor John Moorlach's motion. Before the meeting began, Moorlach had already watered down his proposal from have empowering county voters to demand an elected official under indictment be removed from office, to calling for that official to take what amounts to a paid vacation.

Chairman Chris Norby, the only supervisor who ultimately voted in favor of Moorlach's motion (the other vote coming from, duh, Moorlach) spent a good twenty minutes or so pondering whether the administrative leave should be unpaid. “Why should it be paid administrative leave?,” he asked. “Your punishment is that you don't have to do your job but you'll continue to get paid?” That led to a spirited discussion about whether not paying an indicted official on administrative leave would be unconsitutional and therefore lead to some sort of lawsuit.

Other than Carona's letter, the only highlight of the meeting came when District Attorney Tony Rackauckas told the supervisors that they had to obey the presumption of innocence concept that makes our fine nation a “society of laws,” and not act like a “judicial body” as opposed to a “legislative” one. “It sounds like you're making a decision to remove someone from office without any evidence whatsoever,” he said.

Rackauckas also argued that any future voter referendum on elected officials could not be “ex post facto,” which was a fancy Latin way of saying it wouldn't apply to Carona and his past, ahem, alleged, crimes. (Last week, Rackauckas called for Carona to take an administrative leave of absence).

Next came former supervisor and current state assemblyman Todd Spitzer, who gave a lengthy and pretentious speech about how disappointed he was in Carona before making virtually the same argument as Rackauckas. “I feel I have to speak on behalf of the judicial process,” he said. (Who does this guy think he is, Plato?) Spitzer then waved a copy of a recent book about the Duke lacrosse players, and warned the supervisors not to make the same mistake as Mike Nifong, the North Carolina prosecutor who now faces criminal charges for ignoring exculpatory evidence in his zealous rape case against members of the Duke University lacrosse team. “Once that train left the station, he could not put it back,” Spitzer said.

Well, suffice to say that no train left the station today in Orange County. And one thing is certain: Carona must be breathing a deep sigh of relief that he will not have to worry about Orange County voters next February demanding he take the very same paid vacation that he's already taking as of Nov. 9. Close call, Mike…enjoy your holiday.

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