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Sheriff hopefuls battle over personnel files

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POSTED May 28, 2014 12:16 a.m.

San Joaquin County Sheriff Steve Moore got into a fender-bender while on duty.

San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Department Sergeant Pat Withrow – who very much wants to take Moore’s job – was given a letter of reprimand for failing to adequately supervise when he was in charge of patrols in Lathrop. He was suspended without pay for a day for failing to properly submit vacation slips before taking time off.

The necessary documentation chronicling each of those scenarios has become the focal point of a heated back-and-forth exchange between the two just a week before voters will go to the polls and decide who will be the county’s top cop – determining whether an on-the-spot promise made on video will really be carried out. 

Moore, on one hand, claims that he had absolutely no issue with opening up his personnel file to anybody in the media that wanted to have a closer look at it. Withrow, speaking at the same San Joaquin County Taxpayers Association event earlier this month, said the same thing.

Here’s where the water gets murky. Moore says that he has opened his personnel file to whoever wants to come down and view it. Withrow – according to Moore’s camp and some who have tried to view his file – wanted stipulations that he believed the Sheriff was entitled to. Now that Stockton Record columnist Michael Fitzgerald raised the issue in print last week, the water has gotten a lot murkier.

According to a statement by Undersheriff John Picone, Withrow made “erroneous statements to the reporter that he knew or should have known to be false” regarding his personnel file. The notion, Picone wrote, that Moore somehow has control over his own personnel file and can somehow scrub it in order to avoid scrutiny from the press is completely incorrect. As the undersheriff Picone said that it was he who removed the letter of reprimand from Moore’s file – after requesting that the action be taken following a two-year period – the same way he removed the letter of reprimand from Withrow’s file.

The fact, Picone wrote, that the information that Withrow provided was knowingly false allows the department, legally, to offer up evidence to counter those claims.

Basically it’s a chance for the Sheriff’s Office to call him a liar and point out the way in which he is.

While his summary of facts doesn’t necessarily mention the slang term that was tossed around when it was being investigated – Lathrop-gate – between 2007 and 2008, Picone talked about how extensive the investigation into Withrow’s alleged overlooking of timecard tampering.

“Withrow also stated that the Sheriff’s office did not think that the falsifying of records was a significant issue,” the response states. “This is incorrect. An extensive internal affairs investigation took place over 8 months of continuous effort to determine all of the facts of the case.

“It involved a significant amount of man-hours to and cost to uncover the truth. As a result, Withrow was given a suspension without pay for his involvement in the matter.”

Withrow, who has been a sheriff’s deputy for more than two decades, has been nominated for Officer of the Year five separate times. He’s been given numerous awards – including one in 2006 for running into a burning building and helping usher a mother and her three small children to safety. He then went back inside believing that there might have been a fourth child.

The timing of the charges being lobbed his way, he said, is suspect at best.

“I offered to sign a release of my personnel records and did in fact do so. However, I prefaced my release on the Sheriff, likewise, signing a release that included documents that had been removed by the Assistant Sheriff, his subordinate or had been purposely excluded from being in his file,” Withrow said in a statement. “The Sheriff refused. I have an exemplary performance history and look at these shenanigans at the midnight hour of this election as nothing more than a political stunt.”

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