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Monitor for O.C. sheriff is hired

Times Staff Writer

The Orange County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to hire a Los Angeles County sheriff’s watchdog to run its new Office of Independent Review, which will monitor the Orange County Sheriff’s Department.

Steve Connolly, who has served seven years as an attorney with the Los Angeles County Office of Independent Review, will evaluate internal affairs investigations within the Sheriff’s Department. He will also advise the department about investigations into deaths of inmates in the county jails and uses of force by deputies.

Connolly, 44, of Long Beach, said he intended to work closely with the administration of Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens, who was appointed in June to replace former Sheriff Michael S. Carona, who resigned to focus on his pending corruption trial.

Connolly and his staff will advise Hutchens about employee discipline and produce reports -- and perhaps a website -- to inform the public of the outcomes of sheriff’s employee discipline.

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The performance of deputies in the state’s second-largest sheriff’s department has been a concern for Orange County officials. This year, the district attorney released a report that found that deputies at the county’s largest jail napped, watched television and exchanged cellphone text messages while they were supposed to be monitoring inmates.

Among the first tasks for Connolly, who begins Sept. 1, will be to monitor internal affairs investigations stemming from the district attorney investigation into the 2006 death of John Derek Chamberlain at Theo Lacy Jail in Orange. According to testimony before a grand jury, at least one deputy was watching television while inmates beat Chamberlain to death after mistaking him for a child molestation suspect.

Also on Connolly’s agenda will be an internal affairs investigation into the death of an inmate who died after a violent struggle with deputies at the Central Men’s Jail complex in Santa Ana.

“My belief is Sheriff Hutchens wants the lines of communication to be open between us and her command staff. I will express any concerns I have all the way up to her as often as necessary,” Connolly said.

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Attorneys with the new office will probably respond to the scene of some uses of force by deputies and will advise the department on investigations into alleged employee misconduct.

Connolly said he expected to employ two attorneys and an investigator and operate with an annual budget of $750,000.

He will be paid $210,000 per year.

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stuart.pfeifer@latimes.com


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