By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Union pans use of guard for Santa Clara County supervisor at taxpayer expense
Placeholder Image

SAN JOSE  (AP) — Sheriff's officials are being criticized for a program that provided a county supervisor with a bodyguard at taxpayer expense in Santa Clara County.

The bodyguard was assigned to Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors President George Shirakawa in February, although he says he has not received any direct threats.

Sheriff Laurie Smith's office said the security officer, Alex Flores, was transferred to the county jail in July after a union sued over his selection as the bodyguard. A search is under way for a replacement.

Smith told the San Jose Mercury News in a story published Tuesday that the guard position is part of a pilot program, and its costs will be analyzed when it's completed.

Critics, however, said board supervisors have never faced threats that would merit such a program.

"If we've had 100 years of no injuries to the Board of Supervisors, and we have no injuries this year, how do you judge whether it was a success or not?" John Roeder, of the Silicon Valley Taxpayers' Association, told the newspaper.

Other supervisors said they declined to accept a bodyguard.

The pilot program received attention in June after Shirakawa proposed sending Flores for a three-day bodyguard training course in Las Vegas, at an $895 price tag for taxpayers. The request was withdrawn following the negative publicity.

Flores' corrections officer union recently filed a lawsuit accusing government officials of playing favorites and improperly selecting him for the position without giving others a chance to apply. Shirakawa and Flores have been described as friends who met when the board president was his high school football coach in 2007.

"These violations are exactly what the civil service system is designed to prevent: politically motivated appointments of unqualified applicants," the lawsuit states.

The sheriff's office declined to comment to The Associated Press on the allegations because litigation was ongoing. Shirakawa's offices did not immediately return a message from the AP seeking comment.