Sheriff’s Race Expected to Heat Up

With slightly less than six months to go before the voters’ ballots for the 2014 election cycle begin to trickle in, already two candidates can be counted as in the race to replace Sheriff Bill Whitman. Whitman technically still holds the title of Tulare County Sheriff–and for the time being is collecting his full salary–while former undersheriff and now Acting Sheriff Mike Boudreaux currently occupies Whitman’s old office. Boudreaux will be seeking his own first election victory to cement his recent promotion.

Although incumbency has historically given a decided advantage to most any candidate up for reelection, Boudreaux’s relatively brief stint as sheriff could be expected to mute his that edge among voters–at least somewhat.

Also throwing his hat into the ring for the county’s top law enforcement job is retired undersheriff David Whaley. Whaley, a 34-year veteran of the sheriff’s department, kicked off his campaign November 12 in grand fashion by airing allegations of financial impropriety in the Deputy Sheriff’s Association (DSA) as well as a lack of response by the department to those allegations.
Whaley’s allegations that former DSA board members used DSA credit cards to make personal purchases have spurred a currently ongoing investigation by the Tulare County District Attorney’s Office that could result in charges being filed against current members of the department.

The DSA is a union-like body composed of rank-and-file members of the department who are sergeants and below in rank. Membership in the DSA is not compulsory for sheriff’s deputies.

The investigation will be hampered somewhat due to a history within the DSA of spotty financial record keeping, according to several current and former members.

As for Whaley, his immediate difficulty will be in gaining traction in a contest seemingly thus far devoid of any serious concerns likely to catch the attention of potential voters. An issue facing both candidates is the question of just how many likely voters yet remain in Tulare County, a legitimate concern in light of the near-record low voter turnout in the last election.

Whitman’s generally broad popular support in the community throughout his reign as sheriff could also fuel a sense of voter apathy and a reluctance among voters for turning his hand-picked successor out of office.

Whaley has pointed to Boudreaux’s recently approved request to the Tulare County Board of Supervisors for an additional allocated captain’s position for the department as an example of the differences which set the two candidates apart.

“The department,” said Whaley, “has become too top-heavy with management. That takes away resources for their salaries from the rest of the department, the rank-and-file members who are working to solve cases.” He pointed out that a previously existing captain’s position has remained vacant for the past year.

Boudreaux, who has recently undertaken a major restructuring of management-level positions within the department, cited a litany of rationales in his November 5th application to the supervisors.

The department has operated for the past decade with five captain’s positions. In that time, the department has landed over $20 million in federal grants which require extensive administrative oversight, and has grown to over 800 allocated positions. With the planned opening of a $60 million jail facility in Porterville, as well as an additional $40 million facility at the site of the former road camp, his department will soon face an enormous personnel expansion.

With an understanding that costs related to the allocation request were to be absorbed within the departments’ existing budget, the supervisors approved his request.

Boudreaux’s departmental restructuring plan has scrapped the traditional formula of a sheriff, followed by an undersheriff, followed by the five captain’s positions. Instead, he has implemented a structure calling for a sheriff, followed by two assistant sheriffs, followed by four captain’s positions. Each of the two formulas features a total of seven positions in the “management triangle.”

The department’s three major divisions; Detentions, Patrol and Investigations, will each be headed by a captain, while the fourth captain’s position will be administrative in oversight of, among other things, federal grant monies.

The allocation for an additional captain’s position, explained Boudreaux, won’t result in the actual hiring of an additional captain. The departmental allocation number is needed to accommodate the fact that, theoretically, there are temporarily two active sheriff’s positions for as long as Sheriff Whitman continues to collect his full pay.

An allocated captain’s position carries an annual salary of approximately $115,000 plus benefits for a total of $160,000.

Boudreaux is confident his restructuring plan will result in a more stream-lined management of the department while accommodating anticipated growth. Nor is he concerned that approximately seven years ago Whitman adopted a restructuring very much similar to the one Boudreaux has put in place, then discarded it as ineffective for the needs of the department at that time.

“The times and the circumstances have changed over the years, and I am confident this will result in many improvements in our ability to manage the department, now as well as going forward,” Boudreaux said.

How far apart–or actually even similar–are the two candidates’ views and management styles? And which is better equipped to lead a department that will soon be experiencing a prolonged period of extensive expansion and growth?

There are still almost six months until the 2014 elections.

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