The front page of The Fresno Bee today reports that Sheriff Margaret Mims plans to sue the Fresno County Board of Supervisors.
According to the story, she’s not satisfied with trashing her own department’s budget: she now wants to go after the budget for the rest of the county.
Perhaps the funniest line in the entire story, though, is the quote from Mims about the supervisors:
They overstepped their authority. (Brad Branan, “Mims plans to sue supervisors” (February 6, 2010) The Fresno Bee, A1, col. 4.)
Now there’s an example of the pot calling the kettle black!
The Big Battle
The Big Battle between Mims and the Supervisors is over her attempts to balance a budget, which she allowed to go wildly out of control, by cutting the number of deputies (while maintaining the same number of supervisory personnel) and shutting down large portions of the jail to do so.
A story not long ago in The Fresno Bee (which really should consider changing its name to The Fresno Police Gazette, since the majority of their stories are about law enforcement and crime) indicated that Mims was planning to close down one-half of the jail. Today’s story notes that last month, in preparation for shutting down even more of the jail, she released 1000 inmates.
As a criminal defense attorney practicing primarily in Fresno County, I’m not opposed to this. We jail way too many people as it is. And when someone is accused of a crime, any money they don’t have to pay out for bail can be reserved for…well, me. So “catch and release” unless and until guilt is proven is just fine by me. Who knows? It might even start people to thinking that there’s a difference between an accused person and a convicted person.
But I can’t help wondering as I watch the Mims-versus-the-rest-of-the-world saga unfold what the next election for Sheriff is going to look like!
Mims Embraces “Outsiders”
There’s yet another way Mims’ move demonstrates her propensity to shoot herself in the foot. The County Board of Supervisors is attempting to enforce the priorities they thought they were funding and which most (although, again, not me!) Fresno County citizens would endorse. So far, the very public budget fight has been between Mims (presumably a Fresnan) and the Supervisors (also presumably Fresnans). Call it a “family disagreement.” But no longer. The Bee indicates that Mims’ decision to sue may be fueled by “outsiders.”
Fresnans don’t take kindly to “outsiders” becoming involved in Fresno’s affairs.
How serious am I about this?
A recent spate of Letters to the Editor had citizens of Fresno writing to complain about people living in Clovis who poke their noses into Fresno’s business when they don’t even live here!
Many people living in Clovis work in Fresno, shop in Fresno, eat in Fresno and drive in Fresno. For those outside the Fresno area who may not know this — and those insular-minded Fresnans who have been writing to the Bee — Fresno is the cancerous mole growing on Clovis’ backside. Or maybe it’s the other way around.
The point is that they’re so closely intertwined that you can’t really tell them apart without a map. Heck, on maps that don’t clearly outline the boundaries, you can’t tell even then!
Clovis is within Fresno County. (And the Sheriff’s Department is a county agency.) And many people living in Clovis, as I already pointed out, have significant ties to Fresno.
So if Fresnans are this upset about Clovisites poking into their business, imagine how they must feel about this additional factoid from the story in the Bee: The meddling outsiders who apparently helped Mims’ find her balls and encouraged her to sue the Board of Supervisors are other Sheriffs she met while attending a conference over at the coast!
When asked, Mims herself refuses to comment on whether Sheriffs from other counties encouraged her to sue. As a law enforcement officer well-trained in convincing arrested people to confess because “if you’re not guilty, you shouldn’t have anything to hide,” she knows better than to talk. Not so the snivel law attorney who intends to defend her:
Other sheriffs are very concerned about what’s happening here. (Brad Branan, “Mims plans to sue supervisors” (February 6, 2010) The Fresno Bee, A12, col. 5.)
Incidentally, that attorney? Another outsider! The attorney who will spend the county’s money to defend Mims’ asinine lawsuit is Martin J. Mayer of Fullerton. (Who even knows where Fullerton is? I guess Fresno County’s Board will find out when they start sending Fresno’s money there!)
Statewide Posse to Teach Fresno Supervisors — and Us — Respect?
I can understand the law enforcement officers from other counties being concerned about this, though. After all, if Fresno County insists on some accountability from the Sheriff for the money they give to her — essentially refusing to give her a pot o’ cash to spend as she pleases — then the elected supervisors of their counties might get uppity. They’ll start wanting some civilian oversight over how law enforcement works. The next thing you know, ordinary citizens might start thinking that law enforcement does not have absolute authority over the rest of us. Then what happens to our police state?
As Sheriff Arpaio continues trying to demonstrate: law enforcement has to keep a tight rein on judges, court personnel, supervisors and other obnoxious citizens.
Clearly now is no time for Mims to say to herself, “I’ve already trashed one multi-million-dollar budget, resulting in a decreased ability to deliver necessary services. Maybe I should stop before I further bankrupt the county.”
We must learn. She will teach us: “You will respect mah authoritay!”