Riverside County Sheriff Stan Sniff visited Idyllwild last week and met with the Town Crier owners and publishers Becky and Jack Clark, News Editor JP Crumrine and Staff Reporter Marshall Smith.
Photo by JP Crumrine

The dueling press releases between the Riverside County’s Sheriff’s Department and the Executive Office did not pass quietly.

The Board of Supervisors clearly felt that Sheriff Stan Sniff is not cooperating with KPMG, the consulting firm hired to find savings within the county’s budget, which is hindering their efforts to address the deterioration in the county’s budget.

Four supervisors spoke to the issue at the beginning of last week’s board meeting and all believe the county is in a financial spiral and the results of KPMG’s studies will help the county respond and recover. But they feel that Sniff is unwilling to help.

Board Chair and 3rd District Supervisor Chuck Washington began the rebuttals to Sniff’s Jan. 26 press release criticizing and faulting KPMG’s work at the

sheriff’s Hemet Station.

While Washington discussed some of the data from KPMG’s work in Hemet, his focus, as well as the other supervisors’ criticisms, was on the overall county budget problems. Public safety agencies, including fire, the district attorney and probation, all have to find more efficient ways to deliver their services in order to avoid a major budget calamity.

Washington pointed out that he was originally opposed to hiring a consultant, but as his board tenure grew, he has seen the approaching budget problems and agrees. “… I began to see we were on a path to some very bad financial outcomes for the county if we did not change how we did our business,” he said.

Supervisor Kevin Jeffries (1st District) was more direct. “We have an avalanche coming down of an additional $200 million of spending requirements … Today that comes to the equivalent of the entire services provided by Animal Services in the unincorporated community, the entire service proved by Code Enforcement, half of all fire stations and half of patrol deputies. All could be eliminated and we still wouldn’t have made enough cuts. That is how severe this scenario is for us developing down the road.”

He and Supervisor Marion Ashley (4th District) stressed the need to find significant savings within the public-safety budget, which represents nearly 75 percent of the total county discretionary funding. They urged Sniff to work together and find savings, otherwise they will have to apply their decisions alone.

“It’s clear the sheriff’s attitude toward change isn’t very good,” Ashley said.

But Supervisor John Tavaglione (2nd District) was more direct about his feeling that Sniff wanted the KPMG work to fail. He said he originally felt it during the initial meetings with the consultant.

“I wish the sheriff would grow up and take responsibility for what he knows is right, but for whatever reason he doesn’t have what it takes,” Tavaglione charged.

Any inefficiencies in the Sheriff’s Department need to be changed, but Tavaglione attributed them, and those in other departments, to decades of cultural behavior. These inefficiencies do not reflect directly on Sniff, he stated.

“His attitude has to get better … if he changes his attitude, maybe he’ll see the other side of this and it could be a lot more helpful,” Ashely said, encouraging Sniff’s positive participation.

Tavaglione also pointed out that Sniff should stop blaming the board for the increases in his budget. Sniff originally encouraged and supported the pension reforms, which resulted in a trade-off for raises, according to Tavaglione.

Without potential budget savings from the sheriff, he said “we start laying people off. Not a member of the board wants to do that.”