It sounds like the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office is taking the four cities it contracts with for a ride!
Must be nice to be able to increase the rates that cities pay for through their respective contracts but not really give them the data they’re asking for.
This issue first came up as part of a short-term contract negotiation for the 2022-23 fiscal year. Buellton, Carpinteria, Goleta, and Solvang were all a little miffed that the cost for services increased and pledged to get their questions answered and concerns addressed as part of the negotiations for the long-term contract starting in 2023.
But that’s not what happened. Instead, according to information presented during a Sept. 25 Solvang City Council meeting, the Sheriff’s Office again increased the cost of the city’s contract—from $2.3 million for 2022-23 to $2.8 million for 2023-24—without providing answers to Solvang’s burning desire to understand exactly what they were getting for that cost.
“We asked for some performance metrics. We asked for documentation, and we were met with resistance,” Solvang City Attorney David Fleishman said. “The sheriff’s department said they could not provide us with the kind of statistics we were looking for. And if they could, it would be an additional charge. So it’s problematic.”
Extremely. The Sheriff’s Office should actually be required to provide those stats as part of the contract! It’s crazy that they don’t and aren’t and won’t. Ridiculous. Send them a Public Records Act request!
In addition, according to Fleishman, the Sheriff’s Office threw a last minute “sucker punch to the gut” into the contract for 2023-27: Solvang is also required to pay for any unforseen mid-contract salary increases.
Another issue (there’s a lot of issues) is that if Solvang didn’t approve the new contract, the law enforcement presence in the city could have easily reduced to nothing by the end of September.
Councilmember Claudia Orona called the contract “a scam.” And it does sound very scammy. It sounds like the Sheriff’s Office knows Solvang can’t do anything to hold its feet to the fire and neither can the other cities.
“We don’t have much of a choice,” she added. “We cannot gamble with public safety, so we have to approve the contract.”
Councilmember Elizabeth Orona—no relation to the other Orona—said that it’s exposing the “worst-case scenario” of negotiating with an entity that has a monopoly.
“This is taxpayer money. The lack of transparency is incredibly concerning,” she said.
It is concerning. And even more so because the cities don’t really have a choice. They are “between a rock and a hard place,” as Councilmember Robert Clarke said.
Either approve the contract or start a police department of your own. And police departments don’t just manifest themselves in a week. That takes time and money, which is why the cities contract with the Sheriff’s Office in the first place. However, the city of Guadalupe has managed to figure out how to staff its own law enforcement department.
If that little town, which only recently pulled itself out of the red, can figure it out, Solvang can certainly do the same. It might just take more elbow grease than the city is willing to put in.
The Canary thinks the Sheriff’s Office is scammy. Send complaints to [email protected].