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Recall effort launched against contentious Lake County sheriff

  • Lake County Sheriff Frank Rivero walks along Main Street in Lakeport, California on June 29, 2012. Rivero has been a lightning rod for controversy since he was elected in 2010. (Randall Benton/Sacramento Bee/MCT)

Less than a day after Lake County supervisors asked for the resignation of Sheriff Frank Rivero, a group of residents has launched a recall effort against the contentious lawman.

"Every single officer is discredited by what this man does," said retired Sheriff's Sgt. Chris Rivera, spokesman for the recall committee. "He brings a dark shadow over law enforcement. He shouldn't even be in there."

The group Wednesday filed initial paperwork with the Lake County Registrar of Voters office needed to start the recall process.

Critics, including at least two supervisors and several former department employees, long have complained that Rivero is excessively aggressive, a poor manager and irrationally fixated on what he sees as corruption and cronyism in county government.

The effort to oust the sheriff, however, began in earnest only after a judge released a report this month by District Attorney Don Anderson saying that Rivero, then a deputy, lied about his actions in a 2008 incident in which he shot at, but did not hit, a man.

Anderson's report said he had "clear and convincing" evidence, based on witnesses that included his fellow officers, that Rivero lied when he told investigators that he did not see the man with a can of pepper spray and that he thought he might be reaching for a gun.

Shooting at a suspect holding pepper spray would have violated departmental policy, the report said. Physical evidence from the scene, meanwhile, contradicted Rivero's claim that the man was kneeling down and reaching for an unknown object at the time of the shooting.

Anderson says the report's finding requires him to notify defense attorneys of the history of lying in any case in which the sheriff is a material witness, a condition known as being on the "Brady list." That status is named for a 1963 Supreme Court that requires prosecutors to reveal any information they have that might be favorable to a defendant, including past dishonesty by witnesses.

Rivero did not return a call for comment Wednesday, but he has sharply denied the many criticisms against him, including Anderson's report. He says he is a victim of a vendetta by members of a corrupt and entrenched "old boys network" that he has vowed to combat.

The supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to call for Rivero's resignation, with even former friends such as Anthony Farrington and Denise Rushing offering harsh assessments of his tenure. The vote was nonbinding because Rivero is an independently elected official.

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