Yesterday, one Michael Carona appeared in court, along with his co-defendants, to plead not guilty. It was all essentially theater but it was theater with a purpose — the steps have to be made, rules have to be followed, etc. This was further heightened by Carona’s first full-on media appearance since it all went down, with even a heckler along for the ride:
On Monday morning outside the federal courthouse in Santa Ana after his arraignment, he vowed once again to remain in office and asked the public and the media to remember that he is innocent until proved guilty.
“I am not happy that I am in this legal proceeding,” he said. “I am very excited the American justice system allows me to have my day in court.”
L.J. Guillory, of the watchdog group Ombudsman International, loudly interrupted Carona as he read from a prepared statement and asked why he was not resigning. Carona asked Guillory to let him finish. Then Guillory followed the sheriff and his wife to a waiting car, shouting that taxpayers would not stand for him remaining in office.
“He should step down,” Guillory said as Carona and his wife drove away. “We’re going to keep asking the public to ask him to step down.”
The trial itself is supposedly set for Dec. 18 but pretty much the guess is this will start no sooner than next summer.
Meantime, yesterday provided more general moves among the Board of Supervisors as they tried to figure out what was next — Moorlach still wants Carona fully out on his ear, Campbell is more wait and see. There wasn’t much to say beyond that, at least in terms of what was publicly known.
Today, however, has been a double whammy — first, Carona’s employees, the actual sheriff’s deputies, told him in a statement to please pack sand:
Sheriff Carona’s serious legal issues have become a growing distraction to the
day to day operation of the Department. His issues have caused an erosion in the public’s
confidence in our ability to provide services to the citizens of Orange County.
The AOCDS Board of Directors unanimously believes that it is in the best interest of the
community, the Department and our membership for the Sheriff to resign immediately or
take a leave of absence until this matter is resolved.
The hard working men and women of the Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs
wish to assure the citizens of Orange County that they will continue to receive the high
level of law enforcement service that they deserve and have come to expect.
In otherwards, ‘please go so that people will stop laughing at us and being mean’ — which is not all that far from the truth, as I’ll note in a bit. The department managers are meant to be drawing up a similar statement later today, by some accounts.
Within an hour, Supervisor Chris Norby read out a principled statement from the sheriff — he’s going…for two months:
Carona proposed that during his absence Undersheriff Jo Ann Galisky would be in charge.
“I will be taking a 60-day leave of absence in order to devote my full time and energy towards battling the untrue and baseless charges made against my wife, Debbie and me,” Carona said in his statement. “This was not an easy decision for me to make, given that I know that the charges against me are without merit.”
It’s all very sweet sounding and proper — and it needs to be. Carona, interestingly enough, has learned a lesson that someone like Roscoe Conkling never did: if you actually resign and leave the office, you are then by default on the outside, regardless of whatever connections you have made. Holding on to it as long as possible, even by means of this glorified fig leaf, gives him an anchor, just. Also, as was noted over at the OC Register:
By using 60 days, Carona sidesteps the ordinance that says if an elected official vacates his or her office for 90 days, they can be formally removed. So this way, the sheriff gets to keep his job.
The possible technicalities involved here are amusing to contemplate. What happens if Carona comes back for a couple of days and then decides to take a second leave of 60 days, for instance? Might sound conniving but then again, consider who we are dealing with. In any event, Bill Hunt, the former deputy who had led the most open revolt against Carona from within the department in recent years, summed it up perfectly:
“It’s appalling to me that he has no intention of doing the right thing,” Hunt told me. “He’s going to use the office as a bargaining chip as long as he can to increase his options in negotiating a plea deal.”
And thus things hang for now. But to go back to my bit of snark earlier — if this one blog comment is legit, and there’s no reason to necessarily doubt it, morale inside the department is hitting rock bottom:
Corona needs to step down and prevent further embarassment to the people of the department. Employees are constantly getting badgered, questioned and joked at as a result of the antics of this weasel. Employees within the department are inconstant fear of retaliation and retribution by his group on the “inside” should any of us say anything in the negative tense regarding him, his wife or mistress. Please, for the sake of God, leave us now.
Doesn’t seem like this’ll be ending any time soon.
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