LAKEPORT -- Lake County supervisors voted Tuesday to ask polarizing Sheriff Frank Rivero to resign, but the sheriff vowed he will not bow to their pressure.
"It is a corrupt cabal that has been pushing on me from day one," Rivero said after the unanimous no-confidence vote by the five-member board. "I am going to continue to push back on them."
The vote capped a bitter and emotional three-hour session during which Rivero and his chief critics on the board, Supervisors Rob Brown and Anthony Farrington, traded charges of incompetence, malfeasance and corruption in unusually blunt terms.
"I have never been this embarrassed," said Farrington, who had supported Rivero in the 2010 election. "I believed in you; I trusted you. You have let me down, not as a board member, but as a voter."
Rivero's critics have a long list of complaints, saying that the sheriff has an overly aggressive style and has been a poor manager. He has alienated longtime top commanders, some of whom have quit, and he has sparred with Lake County News, an online news service.
He was so angered by the website's aggressive coverage of him that he refused to supply it with news releases and other information. The owners sued and Rivero recently agreed to a settlement in which he admitted no wrongdoing but restored the flow of information.
The board and the sheriff have battled over a variety of funding issues, particularly the building of a new substation.
Rivero has publicly accused board members of various misdeeds and demanded that Farrington resign after he was hired as a defense attorney for a man facing a marijuana charge. He accused Brown of compromising a murder investigation by prematurely making public the name of a suspect, "recklessly, carelessly and with wanton disregard."
"Now we've moved to the point where we have no relationship with the sheriff," Farrington said.
Board members say the final straw, however, was when a judge ordered the release of a report by District Attorney Don Anderson saying that Rivero had lied to his superiors and investigators looking into a 2008 case in which he shot at, but did not hit, a man. At the time, Rivero was a deputy in the department.
He gave varying statements as to whether he saw that the man was holding a can of pepper spray and whether he thought the object might have been a gun instead, Anderson said. Department policy would not have permitted shooting at a suspect who was holding pepper spray, according to the report.
Anderson said the evidence of deception was so strong that he would be compelled to notify defense attorneys in any case where the sheriff was a material witness that the officer had a history of lying. That designation is known as being on "the Brady list," after the 1963 Supreme Court case Brady v. Maryland, which required prosecutors to disclose evidence that could be favorable to a defendant, including when witnesses have a history of lying.
"Being placed on the Brady list is an incredibly serious charge," Supervisor Jim Comstock said.
The supervisors' resolution has no legal effect because the sheriff is an independently elected official. While the board controls the department's budget, it has no direct influence over the sheriff.
Supervisors said they hoped the resolution would be a strong signal of their disapproval to voters who might be considering voting for Rivero again, or even those who might consider recalling him before the next election.