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Lake County Sheriff Frank Rivero is denying allegations of incompetence and unethical behavior raised by critics seeking to unseat him a recall election.

"Based solely on inaccuracies and mistruths, this recall petition unjustly nullifies the will of the people and your vote to end corruption," Rivero wrote in his formal response to the recall effort filed with the county registrar of voters Thursday.

A coalition of critics, including some former officers of the department, filed preliminary paperwork to recall Rivero on March 25. Rivero had a week to issue a response.

Organizers will need to collect more than 7,000 signatures in order to force a recall election. If they are successful, that vote could be as early as November.

They say that Rivero has "dishonored the office of sheriff" with his combative behavior. He has feuded over a variety of issues with other elected officials, including District Attorney Don Anderson and the Board of Supervisors, which earlier this month unanimously voted to ask for his resignation. He has also been at odds with other law enforcement chiefs in the county.

The critics point particularly to a recently released report by Anderson that says Rivero lied about his involvement in a 2008 shooting incident while he was still a deputy in the department. That finding could compromise Rivero's court testimony in any future case where he is a key witness.

Rivero, however, has insisted that he is the victim of a vendetta by an "old boys network" intent on foiling his campaign pledge to root out corruption. He reserves particular venom for Anderson, who was a political ally during their 2010 election campaigns.

The report about the 2008 shooting "is politically motivated, violates due process and has serious negative implications for law enforcement," Rivero wrote in his response.

Rivero's supporters, meanwhile, have gone on the offensive against Anderson, publishing online copies of a 2011 report by a private investigation firm that suggests, in part, that Anderson's investigators acted improperly in accessing and changing information in the sheriff's criminal information database, known as RIMS.

"I fully expected them to prosecute these characters," but nothing was ever done, Rivero said of the investigators in a call to The Press Democrat on Friday.

Rivero's supporters say they will ask the state attorney general and FBI to look into the matter.

Anderson expressed bafflement Friday at the vehemence of Rivero's attacks on him.

He doesn't deny that his investigators had access to RIMS in 2011, but he said it was part of a long-standing relationship between the previous district attorney and sheriff, who were both unseated in 2010. He denied that his staff had made any substantial changes to any records, but had merely corrected or added contact information and other routine data.

"I'm not going to get in a pissing match with him," Anderson said. "He's got control of RIMS; he can do as he wants to" in limiting his office's access to the records.

Anderson dismissed the private investigators' report, saying it was commissioned by the sheriff and it is unsurprising that it reached conclusions favorable to Rivero on the RIMS issue and several other matters, including the sheriff's effort to block members of the Hell's Angels motorcycle gang from entering the county. Anderson's office did not cooperate with the private investigators.

Anderson also denied that he has any personal animosity toward Rivero or that he is, as the sheriff has repeatedly charged, corrupt.

"I am kind of honored to be mentioned in the huge group of all the people he has called corrupt," Anderson said, noting that the sheriff has applied the same label to the supervisors, county counsel, fellow police chiefs, and other officials.

"I want to know what his definition of &‘corrupt' is," Anderson said. "Everyone who disagrees with him is &‘corrupt.'"

At least two rival candidates are eyeing the recall election, should the organizers gather enough signatures. Former department Lt. Brian Martin said last week that he would run and former Clearlake Police Chief Bob Chalk had already announced he planned to run against Rivero in 2014.

Rivero has pledged to wage a vigorous campaign should he face a recall election. He has also changed his mind about not running for reelection in 2014, saying the attacks against him have motivated him to seek a second term.

In his response, Rivero says he is making progress in reorganizing and streamlining his department and combatting drug and street crime.

"Under my leadership, the Sheriff's Office has assembled a professional and senior staff equal to any in the U.S.," he wrote. "My administration performs at the highest level of ethics and accountability."

(You can reach Staff Writer Sean Scully at 521-5313 or sean.scully@pressdemocrat.com.)