Sheriff’s bust sparks call for committee

After admitting to feeling hamstrung following Sheriff Greg Munks’ now-notorious visit to a Nevada brothel last year, San Mateo County Supervisor Adrienne Tissier on Tuesday called for the possible formation of an ethics committee that would have the power to fire elected officials.

Tissier directed county counsel Michael Murphy to explore the possibility of forming an independent committee with the power to investigate, sanction and fire public officials. Such a committee would require a change to the county’s charter, which Supervisor Jerry Hill asked Murphy to research recently.

Murphy is expected to come back to supervisors with answers in about two weeks. If supervisors and the public approve of placing a charter amendment on the ballot, voters could decidethe issue as early as November.

Tissier’s idea differs from Hill’s in that investigative powers would lie not with supervisors but with committee members, likely chosen by a judge for their objectivity.

“I don’t believe the public would want elected officials firing other elected officials,” she said.

Supervisor Mark Church said he looks forward to reviewing both ideas while Hill said he was interested in exploring all possibilities.

“We’re introducing different options that can be open for discussion by the board and the community to see if there’s a desire to have greater oversight, review and investigation powers over department heads,” he said.

“At this point, we are very limited. We have zero authority not directly related to job performance or county resources. These options could change that.”

Both supervisors said they felt powerless following a bust in which Munks and Undersheriff Carlos Bolanos were discovered in the brothel, which advertised as a massage parlor. Reps. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo, and Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, called for an investigation last week.

“None of the tools at our disposal gave us the ability to vet the issue and make a hard decision,” Tissier said.

Hill said it’s unlikely that either option could be used retroactively to sanction Munks.

Both Hill and Tissier cite the example of San Bernardino County’s charter, which was amended in 2002 to allow supervisors to remove county officers for serious offenses with a four-fifths vote.

tbarak@examiner.com

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