Why did sher­iff at­tack the lo­cal news­pa­per? Be­cause he fears the truth

Lodi News-Sentinel - - OPINION -

Sacra­mento County Sher­iff Scott Jones took to Face­book last week to blast this news­pa­per over what he con­sid­ers un­fair cov­er­age of his mis­deeds and fail­ures.

The lame-duck politi­cian, who lost a Con­gres­sional bid in 2016 and says he won’t run for re­elec­tion, ac­cused The Sacra­mento Bee of pur­su­ing “sen­sa­tion­al­ist agenda-driven jour­nal­ism.” Jones lamented the need for “printed me­dia that is fair, in­sight­ful and fact-driven.”

Hmm. Here’s a sam­pling of the fair­ness, in­sight and fact we’ve served up in ser­vice to The Bee’s read­ers over the last few years:

• When court doc­u­ments re­vealed ac­cu­sa­tions that Jones made un­wanted sex­ual ad­vances to­wards a female deputy ear­lier in his ca­reer, we ex­posed them. Tosca Olives, who worked with Jones when she was in her twen­ties, said his creepy be­hav­ior in­cluded “rub­bing her shoul­ders while she took work-re­lated phone calls,” ac­cord­ing to The Bee. Olives al­leged that Jones, a mar­ried man, en­gaged in sex­ual be­hav­ior such as kiss­ing her and reach­ing un­der her shirt. In all, she al­leged more than 30 in­ap­pro­pri­ate in­ci­dents be­tween 2003 and 2005. Jones de­nied the charges. He later claimed Olives’ ac­cu­sa­tions had been dis­cred­ited by two judges, but Poli­tiFact rated his claim as “false.” No judge ever ruled on the mer­its of Olives’ ac­cu­sa­tions, though Olives’ claims were ex­cluded from a larger law­suit against the sher­iff’s depart­ment for tech­ni­cal rea­sons.

• When Jones barred In­spec­tor Gen­eral Rick Bra­ziel from the sher­iff’s depart­ment in 2018, mak­ing it im­pos­si­ble for Bra­ziel to carry out his over­sight du­ties, we kept Sacra­mento in­formed. This month, when some on the Sacra­mento County Board of Su­per­vi­sors tried to sneak through the ap­point­ment of a new in­spec­tor gen­eral with­out pub­lic in­put, The Bee blew the lid off of the plan.

• When Sacra­mento County was forced to set­tle a $100 mil­lion law­suit over “dan­ger­ous, in­hu­mane and de­grad­ing con­di­tions” in which in­mates were sub­jected to “harsh, pro­longed, and un­due iso­la­tion,” we cov­ered it. The aw­ful con­di­tions in the jail “in­cluded fail­ing to pro­vide ad­e­quate men­tal health care to jail in­mates; fail­ing to screen and pro­vide ser­vices for in­mates with dis­abil­i­ties and med­i­cal prob­lems; and chronic cus­tody of­fi­cer short­ages,” ac­cord­ing to a Bee story by Alexandra Yoon-Hen­dricks.

• When Sher­iff Jones de­cided to turn his poorly-run jail into an ex­ploita­tive real­ity TV circus with a Net­flix show called “Jail­birds,” The Bee in­ves­ti­gated. Re­porter Ryan Sa­balow found that Jones’ deputies “watched fights break out, al­lowed in­mates to in­crim­i­nate them­selves with­out their at­tor­neys present and de­manded edi­to­rial con­trol of the real­ity se­ries, even as the show’s pro­duc­ers amped up the drama in the name of entertainm­ent.” One in­mate told The Bee a fight scene in the show was “damn near staged.”

• When Jones re­fused to re­lease records per­tain­ing to mis­be­hav­ior by other deputies in his depart­ment, The Bee and The Los An­ge­les Times sued him in court. In June, a judge or­dered Jones to com­ply with state law and re­lease records re­lated to “deputies ac­cused of dis­hon­esty, sex­ual as­sault or uses of force that killed or se­ri­ously in­jured cit­i­zens,” re­ported The Bee’s Sam Stan­ton. When, de­spite the court de­ci­sion, Jones con­tin­ued to drag his feet, this edi­to­rial board blasted him for wast­ing $100,000 in tax­payer money due to court-im­posed fines and le­gal costs.

Okay, so maybe it’s not hard to see why the sher­iff feels a bit sen­si­tive about The Bee. But pro­tect­ing the del­i­cate feel­ings of peo­ple like Jones is not — and will never be — the job of this news­pa­per. When the elected of­fi­cials abuse their power or fall short of their prom­ises, we keep them in check, re­gard­less of their po­lit­i­cal lean­ings.

Jones is right about one thing:

We do have an agenda. It’s this: to ask tough ques­tions, print the truth and hold the pow­er­ful to ac­count.

Jones at­tacked The Bee in re­sponse to news that The McClatchy Co., the parent com­pany of The Bee, is fac­ing se­ri­ous financial trou­ble ahead due to pen­sion and debt obli­ga­tions. Yes, these are tough times for lo­cal news­pa­pers. But we’re not eas­ily dis­cour­aged — we’re jour­nal­ists.

We’ve been at this since 1857 and we plan to keep go­ing for an­other 150 years or more, come hell or high wa­ter. Long af­ter the stain of Scott Jones’ re­gret­table ten­ure as sher­iff has been rinsed from our mem­o­ries, The Bee will be here telling the sto­ries that matter to this com­mu­nity. The rea­son is sim­ple: We owe it to our read­ers. You count on us to shine a light on cor­rup­tion and fail­ure, and to lift up our com­mu­nity’s voices. We take this re­spon­si­bil­ity se­ri­ously. Our work is for you, and only pos­si­ble be­cause of you.

So if you value truth, clar­ity and ac­count­abil­ity in the face of petty would-be tyrants like Sher­iff Jones, there’s never been a bet­ter time to sub­scribe to your lo­cal news­pa­per.

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