As the deadline nears for applicants who want to sit on Santa Clara County’s Blue Ribbon Commission to investigate the jail system, vocal critics of the sheriff are seeking her exclusion from the 25-person panel.
County leaders called for the commission after an inmate died in his cell and three correctional deputies were charged with murder in his death.
The county would like to see clergy, community leaders and mental health experts to sign up to serve on the commission. They have until 5 p.m. Friday to file their applications.
Santa Clara County has already announced two county supervisors will sit on the Blue Ribbon Commission, along with district attorney Jeff Rosen and Sheriff Laurie Smith.
Critics are taking issue with the inclusion of Sheriff Smith – who oversees the jail – on the commission. Current and former sheriff’s deputies are circulating an online petition, demanding the sheriff be removed from the commission. The sheriff runs the jails, and critics say she should not be a part of the investigation that is looking into her own management.
After the inmate death, the sheriff began her own internal probe. Aside from arresting three of her deputy correctional officers for the inmate’s death, the sheriff also arrested two others for work-related issues and three others are also on administrative leave, unrelated to the inmate death
“The bad news is, we have some problems here,” said county supervisor Dave Cortese. “The good news is, we can be the first in the country to correct them, and I think that’s what this commission is gonna be charged with doing. So it’s very important that we have a broad-based group of people here that understand what they really have to do.”
Cortese said it’s important that Smith sit on the commission because she needs to be held accountable if it comes to that, and he says she may need to answer some tough questions
Twenty-five people will set on the commission, which is expected to be named next week.