As early as May 6, the Board of Supervisors is expected to discuss how to hold elected officials, such as Sheriff Munks, more accountable for any misconduct they may commit outside the workplace.
Initial ideas floated by supervisors include forming a court-appointed ethics commission, or putting a charter amendment on the November ballot that would give supervisors the power to investigate or remove other elected officials.
Whatever action supervisors take in the coming months, it would be likely not to apply to Sheriff Munks' brief detainment in April 2007. But it's no secret that the sheriff's actions are at the root of the board's sudden interest in the accountability issue.
In recent stories in the San Mateo County Times and San Mateo Daily News, Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough, and Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Menlo Park — both former county supervisors — blasted the sheriff's unwillingness to answer questions about his detainment, and criticized supervisors for their reluctance to investigate the matter.
Sheriff Munks and Undersheriff Carlos Bolanos were detained on April 21, 2007, after being caught in a brothel in an unmarked house several miles off the main strip of hotels and casinos in Las Vegas. The officers, who were not charged with any crime, said they thought the brothel was a legitimate massage parlor.
Other than a short statement issued by Sheriff Munks several days after incident, the officers have refused to comment on their detainment.
Changing the system
Because the top officers were off duty and outside San Mateo County, supervisors had argued that they weren't authorized to further investigate the matter.
But after the flurry of newspaper reports and calls for action from two congresswomen, that tune has changed.
Supervisor Adrienne Tissier suggested at the board's April 22 meeting that the county consider creating an ethics commission appointed by the courts. The commission would operate independently from the supervisors to avoid the possibility of "one elected official attacking another," said Bill Chiang, an aide to Supervisor Tissier.
Supervisor Jerry Hill floated the idea of putting a charter amendment on the November ballot that would allow the Board of Supervisors to investigate or discipline elected officials.
The charter amendment "is just a suggestion as a way for our Board of Supervisors to take a more active role," Mr. Hill told the Almanac. He said a similar system is currently used in San Bernardino County.
Supervisor Hill, who is also running for state Assembly, has announced that he will return all political contributions — totaling about $4,700 in monetary and non-monetary donations — he has received from the Sheriff Munks and his wife.
No new comment
In an e-mail to The Almanac, Sheriff Munks reiterated that he will not discuss his detainment in Las Vegas.
"I am not giving interviews on last year's incident," he said in the e-mail. "I hope that you can understand that I made my statement over a year ago and have moved on to address the significant public safety issues that face our community."