What a difference a year makes.
Monterey County Sheriff Scott Miller spent most of 2010 distinguishing himself from then-Sheriff Mike Kanalakis in his successful campaign to unseat the two-term incumbent. In doing so, Miller presented himself as the upstanding antidote to a man accused of retaliatory discipline against his political foes.
Now Miller’s the one in the hot seat, facing a lawsuit from one of his own officers, Detective Sgt. Archie Warren – and allegations that his transfer of Warren last week, from the narcotics unit to the coroner’s office, was a politically motivated demotion.
Warren, a 22-year veteran of the sheriff’s office, was transferred July 8. A week earlier he had sued Miller and Undersheriff Max Houser, accusing them of obstructing justice in the investigation of the June 28 arrest of Miller’s son, Jacob, on multiple drug charges, including possession of meth packaged for sale.
“Given [Warren’s] expertise and experience as a narcotics officer, this transfer would appear to be improper, and a clear pattern of behavior is beginning to emerge,” says Warren’s lawyer, Daniel P. Mastagni.
That includes the sheriff’s internal investigation of his son’s arrest. Warren’s complaint alleges that Houser inappropriately interrogated him and Seaside Police Det. Alex Sakhrani, a narcotics task force member. Warren also alleges that Houser’s search of his office violated the Peace Officer Bill of Rights.
“I’ve represented police and sheriffs for 39 years, and I’m unaware of a post-arrest investigation of this type following a routine narcotics arrest occurring anywhere in the state,” Mastagni says.
On July 4, Scott Miller requested a California Department of Justice investigation of his department’s conduct in his son’s arrest. Several days prior, he bailed his son out of Santa Cruz County Jail.
Jacob Miller pleaded not guilty to all charges at his June 30 arraignment.
Like son, like father: Scott Miller has repeatedly called Warren’s allegations meritless.
Seaside Police Cmdr. Chris Veloz says Houser’s questioning of Sakhrani was in line with standard practice.
“It wasn’t an interrogation, because there was no potential for discipline,” Veloz says. “Houser is allowed to ask clarifying questions of officers involved in an investigation.”
Warren’s lawsuit claims Houser has no supervisory authority over Seaside officers. But Veloz says he does, since Sakhrani was working on the investigation as a member of the sheriff’s multi-agency drug task force.
“Everything was above board,” he says.