Sheriff's candidate, retired judge call for Santa Clara County sheriff to resign

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- The Sheriff of Santa Clara County is facing a call to resign as allegations surface that she might have tampered with key evidence in an internal affairs investigation. The incident reportedly happened some 20 years ago.

Laurie Smith is running for her sixth term as Sheriff in June. However, one of her opponents and the retired judge who chaired the county's Blue Ribbon Commission on jail reform, are calling for Smith to resign.

Retired Undersheriff John Hirokawa, who is running against Smith, cited an article published Sunday by our media partner, the Mercury News. Reporter Tracey Kaplan detailed claims from two decades ago, when Smith was Assistant Sheriff, that Smith took a potentially damaging audio cassette during an internal affairs investigation of which she was the focus.

"Whether she thought it was serious or not, but she was the subject of that investigation, and to move that tape and then view it, listen to it, and then intervene, that is totally unethical," said Hirokawa. "It's outrageous in regards to that conduct."

Judge La Doris Cordell, the commission chair, also wants Sheriff Smith to resign over a report submitted to the Board of Supervisors today-a 72-page report detailing what progress has been made after inmate Michael Tyree was beaten to death by jail deputies and other complaints about jail operations.

"I believe this piece is a puff piece," said Judge Cordell. "It's basically some publicity for the Sheriff to promote her agenda. We taxpayers paid $75,000 for this report, and it's not worth the paper it's written on."

We contacted the Sheriff's Office, but were told Smith's schedule was too busy to do an on-camera interview. ABC7 News was offered a written statement, but one was not received.

Hirokawa was asked why call for Smith to resign when voters can decide in June. He said if she fails to win re-election, she would still hold the office until the start of next year.

Sheriff Smith responded late Tuesday. "It's unfortunate the residents of Santa Clara County were denied the opportunity to hear from Gary Raney, a national expert and former Sheriff, during the Board of Supervisor's full agenda today. Critics were quick to point out flaws in his report, yet Mr. Raney was not given the opportunity to describe the scope and process of his review in an open forum. His report provides an unbiased, data driven analysis of where we have come as an organization in regards to Jail Reform."
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