The Sheriff's Office has faced much criticism under six-term Sheriff Laurie Smith. In August, the county Board of Supervisors gave a unanimous vote of no confidence for Smith that alleged jail mismanagement, a "pay-to-play" scheme involving gun permits issued by her office and the death or serious injury of inmates, resulting in settlements that have cost the county millions of dollars.
"I have always welcomed any external review of the Sheriff's Office, and we will immediately open all records," Smith said Wednesday in response to the attorney general's announcement.
Bonta said in a statement that there is a clear "lack of trust" in the community toward the Sheriff's Office regarding "deeply concerning allegations" that "have been repeatedly voiced by elected leaders, editorial boards, community members, and more."
He said his investigators will look into whether there is a "pattern or practice" of unconstitutional conduct. The attorney general's office is authorized to investigate whether a law enforcement agency has a pattern or practice of violating federal or state law and can compel the correction of systemic violations.
— Bay City News Service
Auditor to oversee delayed hospital project
For years, Santa Clara County supervisors were told that an innovative psychiatric facility serving children and teens would be complete and open to patients by November next year. As it turns out, that deadline was never going to happen.
Now the tentative plan is to open the hospital by December 2024 at the earliest, a more than yearlong delay that has supervisors frustrated and looking to prevent further problems caused by either contractors or the county itself. County supervisors voted unanimously last week to hire an independent auditor to keep a closer watch on the hospital's development and avoid more delays.
Santa Clara County began planning for the hospital in 2018 following emotional pleas from the community for a youth psychiatric facility. The original plan was to have the hospital open to patients by November 2023.
The general contractor for the project, XL Construction, however, told county officials that it is backing away from "any possibility" of meeting the original completion date, citing a later estimate of April 2025. The project's costs, originally estimated to be $233 million, are now projected to land between $370 million and $496 million — the latter based on XL Construction's latest report.
"We were given repeated assurances about a timeline and those repeated assurances proved not to be consistent with the facts on the ground," said Supervisor Joe Simitian, who proposed that the county hire an auditor to ensure the project stays on time and on budget.
Along with hiring an auditor, the county has told XL Construction that it would be terminating its contract, said Doug Koenig, the county's deputy director of capital programs.
— Kevin Forestieri
Gunman robs women at Stanford Shopping Center
A man who pointed a handgun at two elderly women stole their purses on Tuesday afternoon at Stanford Shopping Center, Palo Alto police said.
The robbery, which occurred at the popular mall at 180 El Camino Real, did not result in physical injuries. The man approached the two women as they were eating lunch outside True Food Kitchen, pointed a black handgun at them and demanded for their purses, police said in a press release. The women, one who is in her 70s and the other who is in her 80s, complied, police said. The incident was reported around 2:45 p.m. and officers immediately responded.
The man was initially thought to have fired a shot into the air before fleeing the scene. The women reported hearing a "pop" or "click" noise come from the gun. Other witnesses reported seeing an orange color on the gun, including possibly at its tip. Police said it's possible the weapon was a replica handgun. Officers didn't find any projectile or damage from a projectile at the scene.
Witnesses described the robber as a Polynesian male in his late teens or early 20s who was about 6 feet tall, had short curly hair and an average build. He was wearing a black hooded sweatshirt with red lettering, black pants, red shoes and a face covering. The man was last seen on a blue bicycle riding north toward Sand Hill Road.
— Sue Dremann
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