The Student News Site of Sonoma State University

Sonoma State Star

The Student News Site of Sonoma State University

Sonoma State Star

The Student News Site of Sonoma State University

Sonoma State Star

    Sonoma County Sheriff facing multiple complaints from fellow elected officials


    Since the beginning of the global pandemic, Sonoma County elected officials have been actively expressing their thoughts of disappointment throughout social media platforms in response to the series of events relating to Sonoma County Sheriff Mark Essick.

    Back in May, at the beginning of social distancing and mask mandates, the sheriff wrote a post on Facebook which signified that all Sheriff’s Office staff should stop enforcing local health orders. 

    In an article written by the Los Angeles Times, they explain that Essick’s intention of the post was to show how Sonoma County does not want to uphold any restrictions that may affect the community. 

    “Based on what we have learned, now is the time to move to a risk-based system and move beyond blanket orders that are crushing our community,” Essick wrote. 

    In response to the announcement, former Sonoma County Supervisor Shirlee Zane and Santa Rosa’s Police Chief Ray Navarro responded in ways that contested to Essick’s decision.

    In the interview, Zane expressed her disappointment with Essick’s decision to direct enforcement without consulting elected officials before his announcement and stated, “It’s a time for elected officials to stand together to get through this,” Zane said.

    Navarro wrote a post on Facebook responding to the announcement, which states, “The Santa Rosa Police department will continue to support the health officer, who is the subject matter expert, leading a safe, strategic and data driven process for reopening.”

    Later in August, Essick made another announcement on Facebook to inform the public that the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors plans to make a budget cut of $14.2 million which will ultimately affect two substations, the Henry 1 helicopter program, and would eliminate 26 jobs. 

    Essick’s video listed the effects of the budget cuts and informed local residents to contact the Board of Supervisors if they have any comments, suggestions or thoughts regarding the probodes bill. 

    One local resident from the Sonoma Coast area commented under Essick’s post and stated,  “Come on be real this is not where cuts need to be made at a time when our country needs every bit of their policing and disaster responders.”

    On the other hand, responses from multiple elected officials show that they are not in favor of Essick’s decision to post the video and explain their thoughts. 

    According to the Press Democrat, interviews from elected officials show their disappointment towards the sheriff’s efforts to utilize social media as a way for persuasion. 

    Supervisor Susan Gorin, the board chair, stated “I think each department could have gone onto Facebook and said, ‘Look at what the county is making me do.’”

    Additionally, Supervisor Lynda Hopkins, the board chair, and Zane also contributed to the response by explaining how the video would make no effort to persuade them into changing the decision of the budget cuts. 

    “I am never persuaded by political posturing, which is how I view this. I’m persuaded by data, by numbers, by thoughtful conversations with constituents that are based on reality – not a particular view of reality,” Hopkins stated.

    With Essick’s past and current decisions made without consulting elected officials, there seems to be tension rising between the sheriff and the Board of Supervisors. 

    “Now, you’re not only not supporting us, but you’re declaring war on us. Very, very poor judgment,” said Zane. 

    More recently, Essick asked a Sonoma County Superior Court Judge, Arthur Watking, to intervene in a current and pending case by issuing a temporary restraining order to restrict public records from being released relating to Hopkin’s accusations against Essick for harassment and bullying.

    After Hopkins filed a formal complaint with the county’s counsel office, an investigation was led to look into the sheriff’s behavior where the findings were concluded in December, but still remain a secret due to the temporary restraining order.

    In an article published by the Argus Courier, they state that Zane believes that the sheriff acted improperly towards Hopkins. 

    On the March 3 hearing, The Press Democrat was given the opportunity to intervene with the case and discussed California’s transparency laws being applied to elected officials. 

    Executive Editor of The Press Democrat, Richard A. Green stated, “We think Sheriff Essick’s lawsuit to hide these documents from the public was an evasive move to avoid being transparent to the constituents he serves, and we hope he complies with the county’s call for these records to be released.”

    As of last Sunday, the Press Democrat reported a growing number of protestors in Santa Rosa who demanded for the Sheriff’s formal resignation due to the ongoing events.

    The local Santa Rosa organization, Love and Light, rallied to protest in-person, but also utilized their social media account on Instagram to pinpoint all of the misconduct that the Sheriff demonstrated. 

    Love and Light’s Instagram post states, “Contrary to the Sheriff’s mission statement, he has repeatedly broken the good faith of the partnership with this community. He has tarnished the integrity of the office, and stands brazenly defiant, unapologetically, a roadblock to progress, rather than a steward of good will.”

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