Santa Clara County Sheriff: Political favors for support?

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- Fireworks in the Santa Clara County Sheriff's race. With the election next week, Sheriff Laurie Smith's opponents are raising questions about how she sought endorsements. Two of those opponents allege Smith improperly tried to hand out political favors in exchange for their support.

John Hirokawa was once the second in command to Sheriff Laurie Smith. Now, he's providing the toughest challenge ever for Smith, who's held the office for almost 20 years.

This story began when Martin Monica called the I-Team weeks ago. He's one of three candidates for Santa Clara County Sheriff to be knocked out in the June primary. He says after that loss, Sheriff Laurie Smith and her second in command, Under-Sheriff Rick Sung, met Martin and his son at this Peet's coffee, trying to get him to publicly endorse her. She gave them the new sheriff's patch.

Jeffrey Monica, software engineer, told Dan Noyes, "She also brought from the county internal documents that have jobs for us to apply for and to get."

"She also said, 'Well, you can do this one here, or whatever you apply to," said his father, Martin Monica. "Give me a call and use my name and we'll get you there.'"

After, Martin Monica says Laurie Smith sent this text saying, "Hi Martin. I have some info for your son -- so do you have some time to meet again? Also thank you so much for endorsing me!" But Monica is not endorsing Laurie Smith, saying, "It wasn't the right thing to do. I vote for people that I believe will do the correct job."

Former candidate for sheriff and retired lieutenant Jose Salcido told Dan Noyes he saw something wrong in his meeting with Smith's second in command, Rick Sung, at Agave restaurant across from San Jose City Hall: "'The sheriff would like to know if you would endorse her.'"

He says Sung made an offer he believes came on behalf of the sheriff.

"At that time, he offered, 'What if we brought you back as a captain?'" Salcido told the I-Team. "And I said, 'Well, that's interesting.'"

After that meeting, Salcido sent an email to the District Attorney requesting "a confidential meeting regarding unethical, if not illegal, actions by Laurie Smith during the current election cycle. I've experienced offers from Sheriff Smith in exchange for support and I'm aware of the other candidates experiencing the same."

John Chase from the DA's Public Integrity Unit answered, "Not everything that is unethical or even illegal is a crime," and later declined to investigate.

Dan Noyes asked Salcido, "Did he indicate that eh, this is just the way things--"

Jose Salcido answered, "He did say, 'This is politics, you've been involved in politics long enough to know that it goes on all the time.' I said, 'Well, it doesn't make it right.'"

John Chase declined an interview but sent a statement: "The promised promotions ... under the circumstances they were allegedly made, could not be proved to be crimes."

Sheriff Laurie Smith also declined to be interviewed, but messaged Dan Noyes on Facebook that this "desperate last minute mudslinging ... is a lie. We met with all the candidates that lost in the primary, as a matter of common practice. You can smell the desperation coming from my opponent and his supporters."

Her opponent, John Hirokawa, tells us he hasn't raised this issue while campaigning, even though he heard the stories from the other candidates months ago.

"Let's try to get those votes based on the merits of who John Hirokawa is, versus trying to disparage the incumbent about her tactics," Hirokawa said.

Late tonight, Under-sheriff Rick Sung messaged Dan Noyes on Facebook that "Jose Salcido is a bold-faced liar. ... I did not and would not offer (him) a position."

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