Deputy challenges two-time Monterey County sheriff in 2010 election.
Thursday, July 16, 2009
When Fred Garcia came up for rotation last year as a Monterey County Sheriff’s Office commander, he says everyone knew where he was heading. “If you would have asked any commander, ‘Where do you think Fred is going to go?’” Garcia says, “they would have all said ‘training.’” Garcia wanted a special operations or investigations assignment, but he claims Sheriff Mike Kanalakis put him in charge of training because Kanalakis heard Garcia was going to run against him. “He pulled me inside the office – less exposure, and he can keep an eye on me,” Garcia says.
Still, Garcia says he isn’t challenging Kanalakis in the June 2010 election because he didn’t get his desired assignment – it’s just one piece of a cache of criticism Garcia has accumulated against his boss and fellow Republican. The 29-year Sheriff’s Office veteran says Kanalakis’ priorities are wrong; he is spending wastefully and is out of touch with his deputies. If elected, Garcia says, he wants to downsize the office’s administrators and improve morale.
The short and stocky Monterey County native, who wears wire-rimmed glasses and has a George Costanza-like bald head, nitpicks line item after line item from recent Sheriff’s Office budgets. Garcia questions the helicopter program, the Sheriff’s Tactical Airborne Response (STAR) unit. The $500,000-plus program was suspended due to budget cuts earlier this year, but Garcia says Kanalakis should focus on the ground needs first. “When your agency is tight with money, you are 35 deputies short, your investigation division is short, your jail is crumbling around you, the sheriff is moving money out of different budgets to fund the helicopter program,” he says.
Garcia also points to the purchase of a $250,000 armored vehicle and the open houses Kanalakis used to host, where all the Sheriff’s Office divisions showed off their gear. “This is self-promotion, bells and whistles,” he says. “We’ve totally moved away from doing what we’re supposed to do, and that’s police work and serving the community.”
Low morale is another problem Garcia says needs fixing, adding that Kanalakis rarely interacts with his deputies. “I was in King City for three years,” he says. “I never saw him once at my station.”
In the 2006 election, Kanalakis won the Deputy Sheriffs Association endorsement by one vote, but still soundly defeated his closest opponent with nearly 75 percent of the public vote.
Kanalakis campaigns for a third term based on his record. Despite tough budget times that have left him with 70 fewer positions compared to when he was first elected in 2002, he says he has added critical new programs, like the county gang and ag-crime task forces, bomb squad, Homeland Security Division (that Garcia will oversee starting this month), and Sexual Assault Felony Enforcement Team.
After complaints of racial profiling in Castroville, he opened a community field office there and assigned a deputy to the community. Under a new partnership, he plans to have a part-time deputy at Rancho Cielo to mentor troubled kids. “When you look at the things that I have done for the deputies and the projects that I’ve pursued, it’s always been for the benefit of the community and the public in general,” Kanalakis says.
The sheriff says he is committed to replacing the county’s overcrowded jail, despite the loss of state funding, and is working to develop a new re-entry program for inmates to reduce recidivism. Kanalakis also wants to be in office to rebuild his staff and hire new deputies, eventually adding 100 to 200 more positions to the roughly 400-employee operation.
But first, he’ll have to win in 2010. Kanalakis says it’s not true that he assigned Garcia to training to keep him on a short leash; Garcia was one of many commanders moved. “There is no such thing as a bad assignment in the Sheriff’s Office,” Kanalakis adds.
He also defends his budget decisions, including the STAR unit, which he says was one of the most cost-effective programs he ever instituted – Kanalakis cites a list of helicopter statistics, and says the unit arrived first on scene 188 times. He says the funding came from a combination of donations from the Sheriff’s Advisory Council and asset forfeiture funds. The money for the armored vehicle came from savings at the end of last fiscal year, he says, and the open houses, though they did require overtime, were a good opportunity for the public to see their tax dollars at work.
“It’s easy to criticize,” Kanalakis says. “It’s much more difficult to come up with workable solutions. When you don’t know all the facts, these are easy things to say.”