A good investigation

By From page A4 | July 11, 2011

We compliment District Attorney Vern Pierson for a thorough investigation of bogus diplomas used by five deputies to obtain 5 percent pay hikes. The investigation, from the report the DA made public last week, appears thorough and informative.

The DA was assisted by one deputy who “agreed to cooperate fully and without any promises of lenience or benefit.” That deputy, after discovering that his four-week diploma was potentially bogus, went on to earn a degree from an accredited institution the old-fashioned way, by taking classes over a period of time. We give that deputy credit for a sense of honor and honesty by talking to the DA without preconditions. That’s what we expect from our law enforcement officers.

We also compliment the DA and the now retired interim sheriff, Fred Kollar, and the county administration for reaching civil settlements with the other four deputies who used unaccredited diploma mills to boost their pay.

It should be pointed out that Kollar launched this investigation when the Mountain Democrat published an investigative article questioning the educational claims of a retired California Highway Patrol officer who was running for sheriff and then dropped out of the race after the article ran. Kollar wanted to check for any skeletons in the Sheriff’s Department’s closet. Apparently there were some.

In fact, degrees were checked throughout county government. It was only the Sheriff’s Department that was found to have bogus degrees. This was a stain on a department charged with enforcing the law. Honesty is the No. 1 requisite for such a responsibility.

We also compliment the new sheriff, John D’Agostini, for not letting things slide now that the five have paid back the money and the DA has determined he lacks the proof required in a court of law. Sheriff D’Agostini is now launching an internal investigation. We await the results of that investigation. The lieutenant who was the primary tout for the bogus diploma mills is obviously a candidate for an internal affairs inquiry if not a change in rank to sergeant.

But most importantly, as pointed out by the DA in his report, the contract with the Deputy Sheriffs Association needs to clarify absolutely that any degrees claimed by deputies must be from proven accredited institutions of higher learning and they should be earned by attending classes.

The excuse that retired Sheriff Jeff Neves gave the DA that his command staff was “too busy” to investigate the educational incentive pay applications is so lame that he should have been embarrassed to have said it. The sheriff is an administrator first of all and last of all, despite D’Agostini’s recent assist in apprehending some liquor store robbers on the lam from Folsom.

By launching his own investigation D’Agostini has made clear there will  be no rubber-stamping in his administration. We are disappointed to learn that Neves apparently rubber-stamped the educational incentive pay applications and sent them on to county payroll. It’s no wonder the county auditor is tearing his hair out.

Mountain Democrat

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