Ronald E. Koenig, chairman of the state Board of Prison Terms whose conduct as sheriff of Tehama County was the target of two formal investigations, was endorsed for confirmation as the state’s top parole officer by the Senate Rules Committee on Wednesday.
A 3-0 vote, the bare minimum required in the five-member committee, sent Koenig’s appointment to the full Senate with a recommendation that he be confirmed. Koenig, 51, was named to the $61,845-a-year post by Gov. George Deukmejian last July.
A key incident that figured in the investigations, first by a Tehama County Grand Jury and then by the state Department of Justice, was Koenig’s approval of a concealed weapon permit for a now-deceased rancher with a history of police and court problems.
The rancher, Charles Cobb, has been described as a social acquaintance of Koenig. He received permission to carry a concealed weapon despite being arrested in September, 1981, for cultivating a large quantity of marijuana. In a 1981 divorce action, Cobb’s former wife described him as violent and accused him of beating her.
Obtained Permits Twice
Cobb was issued a permit signed by Koenig in 1981, and again in 1984, the same year he died in a boating accident.
While acknowledging that the permit bore his signature, Koenig, under questioning by Sen. Henry J. Mello (D-Watsonville), said he had no knowledge of the concealed weapons permit. He told Rules Committee members he did not know about the permit until questioned by a state Department of Justice investigator last December. Koenig, who served 11 years as sheriff, said underlings routinely handled concealed weapons applications.
Mello expressed surprise because Tehama County has only 41,000 residents. “You would think the sheriff would have known what was going on and not just let some undersheriff or some lieutenant issue weapons permits, which I think are very serious,” said Mello, who later voted for Koenig’s confirmation.
Senate President Pro Tem David A. Roberti (D-Los Angeles), chairman of the committee, brushed aside accusations against Koenig as “slanderous,” saying he would not dignify them by raising questions during the hearing.
A roomful of supporters burst into applause when the vote was announced.
Koenig refused to answer reporters’ questions after the hearing, saying he believed that he received a clean bill of health as the result of the Department of Justice investigation. “My only comment is I think the vote reflects the results of the investigation,” he said.
Rodney J. Blonien, undersecretary of the Youth and Adult Correctional Agency, disclosed to reporters that Koenig underwent a 4 1/2-hour lie detector test as part of the investigation. “It was found that he answered all of the questions truthfully,” Blonien said.
Blonien did, however, call the issuance of the weapons permit “a mistake.”