New Sheriff to Keep 3 Gates Assistants
In a surprise move, incoming Sheriff Michael Carona on Wednesday opted against a complete overhaul of the department’s top management and said he will retain most of outgoing Sheriff Brad Gates’ top assistants, including a one-time election opponent.
“The rumor on the street was that I would come in and slash and burn the department’s management,” Carona said. “The truth is, regardless of the past, they are willing to offer their loyalties to me. I am looking for qualifications. I am not looking for political payback.”
Carona, who takes office Jan. 4, said he asked assistant sheriffs Rocky Hewitt, Tim Simon and Doug Storm to remain in their positions. Storm, a protege of Gates, briefly ran against Carona for sheriff this summer before dropping out of the race. Gates is a longtime Carona adversary who has said the former county marshal is unfit to be sheriff.
Carona also named George Jaramillo, his former campaign manager and head of his transition team, to the fourth assistant sheriff position.
Some department insiders expressed support for Carona’s decision, saying it will make for a smooth transition for the first new sheriff in 24 years.
“I think the Orange County Sheriff’s Department is a very complex organization, and I think Mike Carona recognizes there needs to be some continuity of leadership,” said Robert J. MacLeod, general manager of the deputies association.
The status of Assistant Sheriff Jerry Krans remains unclear. Carona said he has not sat down with Krans to discuss his future, but did not elaborate.
Carona stirred speculation that he would clean house earlier this month when he asked the Board of Supervisors to change the requirements for being an assistant sheriff. Under the current rules, assistant sheriffs must serve in the department for at least two years at the rank of captain. The board approved the changes that will take effect when Carona takes office.
Some observers believed Carona sought the rule change to bring aboard Jaramillo, a former Garden Grove police sergeant, and other department outsiders.
In 1997, Jaramillo, who is Latino, filed a lawsuit alleging race and gender discrimination at the Garden Grove Police Department. He later settled with the city and was made a lieutenant before retiring and joining Carona’s campaign.
Alfredo Amezcua, a Santa Ana attorney and Latino community leader, said it took a lot of courage on Carona’s part to appoint Jaramillo, despite the controversy.
Carona intends to bring a variety of changes to the department, including construction of a lock-down drug treatment facility and a 5% cut in operations spending. On Wednesday, he expressed confidence in his new team.
“Every one of these individuals bring with them their own unique strengths to the management team,” said Carona, who’s leaving the marshal’s office after 10 years at its helm. Assistant Sheriff Hewitt said he was pleased to be part of the team.
“I was privileged to have served under Sheriff Gates, and I am extremely honored to have been selected to work with Sheriff Carona,” he said. “I look forward to working with him. We’ve got a lot of hard work ahead of us, and I am very excited.”