Wednesday, February 24, 2010

How the Sheriff lost my vote

Tuesday evening KSBW News ran a 30 minute showdown interview with Monterey County Sheriff Mike Kanalakis, and Fred Garcia who is running to replace Kanalakis in the next election. If you have followed the local news lately, you know that Garcia held, until recently, the rank of Commander in the Sheriff's department and he was head of the Homeland Security division until the Sheriff demoted Garcia two steps in rank for insubordination and improper campaign practices. Shortly thereafter Garcia resigned, and Monterey County politics got very interesting. 

After watching the interview, I am thoroughly dismayed with Sheriff Kanalakis on this matter. Yes, Garcia exercised poor judgment in using a county copier, mailing list, and rubber stamp to prepare some campaign materials. But that minor lapse of good sense pales in comparison to Kanalakis demoting Garcia for insubordination just because the two had an honest disagreement about the affordability of a helicopter.

The helicopter program in question was part of Garcia's Homeland Security division. Kanalakis had instructed Garcia to make sure the department got its helicopter. Garcia, however, did not feel that a helicopter was the best use of Homeland Security funds when the county budget was stretched to the breaking point. After analyzing the numbers, he concluded that the money could be used more effectively elsewhere. Garcia made his recommendation to the county Board of Supervisors, who agreed with Garcia and unanimously voted against funding the helicopter.

Since the Sheriff had his heart set on getting a helicopter, he was outraged and openly accused Garcia of "sabotage" and "insubordination" for disagreeing with the Sheriff's position, and he reduced Garcia to the lowest rank of deputy.

One might argue that an employee must carry out the instructions of a superior, and that is Kanalakis's position. But when one is the head of a division, as Garcia was, that person should be allowed to express his opinions on the best way to operate that division. Kanalakis takes the position that as Sheriff, his own judgment should prevail and that dissenting opinions undermine his authority. However, he is arrogant in suggesting that when matters involve taxpayer funds, only his opinion should be available to the county supervisors who must authorize the funds.

Equally disturbing is the idea that a member of the Sheriff's Department who seeks to run for the highest office in the department, should not be allowed to express a dissenting opinion during the campaign. According to Kanalakis, a subordinate must never question his boss in public, ever, even when an issue is relevant to a public election. When asked by KSBW anchor Erin Clark how a member of the sheriff's department could run an effective campaign without expressing differences of opinion Kanalakis said the individual must resign (and sacrifice half a year's income) before running against him.

Clearly, Kanalakis has little tolerance
for honest differences of opinion. An arrogant man with a thin skin is not someone I want running the Monterey County Sheriff's Department. This is not to suggest that I am endorsing Fred Garcia for Sheriff. He clearly showed poor judgment when using county resources to prepare his campaign materials. I'll certainly look at his record and viewpoints as the campaign proceeds, along with those of the third player, former Pacific Grove Police Chief Scott Miller. One thing is certain, Kanalakis is no longer under consideration for my vote.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

"I am in control..."

With the recent passing of Alexander Haig, a famous old soundbite has been dragged up once again, and misinterpreted once again. 

On the day when President Reagan was wounded in an assassination attempt there was, understandably, a fair amount of confusion in Washington. Al Haig spoke at a press briefing in the White House to explain what was happening.

One of the things he said was "I am in control, here at the White House, pending the return of the Vice President." I remember it well. I watched it on live TV. He was trying to reassure everyone that in the President's absence White House affairs were being attended to even though the president was in the hospital and Vice president Bush was en-route and temporarily unavailable. 

In the days that followed, the only part of the quotation anybody talked about was the "I am in charge" part. By taking the phrase out of context, Haig was widely criticized for assuming Presidential powers in violation of the Constitution. 

But somebody had to be in charge of White House operations under those circumstances. As Secretary of State, the highest ranking official in the building at the time, it was perfectly natural for Haig to take charge. He tried to choose his words carefully, limiting his authority to one building and only until Vice President Bush could arrive, yet still his words were twisted to make him look bad. 

And some commentators are doing it again today. Don't pay any attention to them, because most of them weren't even paying attention at the time it happened.