Mini turf tiff?

monosupervisorsA personal objection or defense of turf? Mono County courthouse watchers are kicking that one around when it comes to a Supervisor’s wish to delve into the Sheriff’s Saturation Patrol in August and the Sheriff’s mind-your-own-business response.

Supervisor Tim Fesko mentioned in a Board meeting earlier this month that constituents and others had complained about the stepped up patrol and the perceived targeting of Burning Man participants. Supervisor Larry Johnston wanted to talk about sobriety checkpoints. Mono Sheriff Ralph Obenberger was sitting in the audience on other matters.

Later, Supervisor Fesko told Sierra Wave Media that there were questions from the Board about constituent concerns. Said Fesko, “It’s our job to go ask those questions so we have proper answers.” Fesko said locals and visitors questioned the increased Sheriff’s patrols during the Burning Man event in Nevada. The Sheriff said the Board should not have brought up those questions in public.

Mono Undersheriff Ralph Obenberger

Mono Sheriff Ralph Obenberger

On December 10th, Sheriff Obenberger showed up in the Boardroom with a phalanx of officers to read an open letter to the Board. The short version – He is in charge of his Department and the Supervisors have no say over his policies. They do vote on his budget and numbers of employees. The Sheriff wrote, “The Board of Supervisors does not determine the type of law enforcement services provided to the citizens and/ or visitors of Mono County. That is the purview of the Sheriff,” he said. The Sheriff’s letter says that his office is “an independent constitutional office, and as such, we work for the constituents of Mono County.”

Supervisors Fesko and Johnson said they just thought dialogue on law enforcement matters would help. Sheriff Obenberger told Sierra Wave that it “irked him that the Board was questioning his staff’s professionalism.” As for discussions in the Boardroom on law enforcement, Sheriff Obenberger said, “If there’s an issue, they should bring it to my office and to me personally.” Supervisors Fesko did go to Obenberger’s office on December 9th to talk about these issues. After saying Fesko had never come to his office, the Sheriff said, yes, he did come over to “apologize.”

The Sheriff said he took it that the Supervisors want control of his Department. He said, “The only one who can control policy is the Sheriff.” Obenberger said the Board “went too far.”

Supervisor Larry Johnston wanted to talk about DUI Checkpoints, but the Sheriff pointed out his Department does not conduct those events. Johnston said he would like to have a discussion with the Sheriff on these matters and feels such a discourse is proper. Said Johnston, “I hope the Sheriff sees we’re not being disruptive of his organization or making accusations.”

Supervisor Fesko said he was trying to explain what he had heard about the Saturation Patrol and arrests. He said he just wanted to know why there was such a large enforcement this year. Said Fesko, “A discussion needs to take place in an open, fair, unthreatening manner.”

December 10, 2013  (Letter from Mono Sheriff Ralph Obenberger)

To the Honorable Mono County Board of Supervisors and Citizens of Mono County,

At the December 3rd 2013 Board of Supervisors meeting two of you questioned law enforcement actions taken by my Office, at points referring to individuals associated with ‘Burning Man’. Supervisor Fesko, you said you wanted to have a discussion about policy referring to law enforcement techniques, specifically traffic stops.  Supervisor Johnston, you wanted to possibly change policy relating to the use of sobriety checkpoints, and said you were aware of trade-offs if such changes would occur.

The Office of the Sheriff is an independent constitutional office, and as such, we work for the constituents of Mono County.  The Board of Supervisors does not determine the type of law enforcement services provided to the citizens and/or visitors of Mono County, that is the purview of the Sheriff.  The Board of Supervisors has two responsibilities in dealing with my Office.  One is to provide a yearly budget and the second is to authorize the number of employees.  These responsibilities are delineated in California Government Codes and within those codes it specifically states that the Board shall not affect or obstruct the independent functions of the Sheriff.

As Sheriff, I took an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States of America, the Constitution of the State of California and am also guided by the California Government Code. I have to maintain a jail, provide civil services, coroner services, search and rescue, court security and manage emergency services for the county.  Coupled with that, I have various specialized details such as Boating, Off Highway Vehicle patrol (OHV), Mono County Narcotics Enforcement Team (MONET), and K-9 that augment routine patrol services.  All of these are done with the budget you the Board of Supervisors approves on a yearly basis and/or with state and federal grant funding.

The Sheriff’s Office has received both written and verbal ‘thank you’ letters, phone calls, and other correspondence for the services we provide, even relating to the numerous arrests that were made on or around the ‘Burning Man’ festivities timeframe.  Some of the correspondence stated ‘Keep doing what you are doing,” and “I wonder how many date rapes didn’t occur because you took the drugs off the street.”  These positive comments have come from residents, visitors and various agencies that we deal with on a daily basis.

I expect and demand from my staff professional, courteous and fair law enforcement and I am confident they are providing it.  I have given them discretion to handle their encounters with the public to both serve the individual and the public at large using their judgment, the law and their years of training and experience to ensure fair administration of justice.  Any type of encounter with law enforcement can be uncomfortable and stressful for both the citizen, and sometimes the deputy, but the Sheriff’s Office has a job to do. We get that job done, even though we cannot make everyone happy, all of the time.

As the Sheriff I value and appreciate any feedback, positive or otherwise, from the public that could enhance the operations of the Sheriff’s Office as it is my intention to make the Mono County Sheriff’s Office the best it can be.

I will continue to use any lawful means available and productive in protecting the people of Mono County from crime.

It is an honor to serve the residents and visitors to Mono County.

R. Obenberger

Sheriff, Mono County


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42 Responses to Mini turf tiff?

  1. Big Rick OBrien December 22, 2013 at 9:18 pm #

    ” He is in charge of HIS department and the Board of Supervisors have no say over his policies”? MAYBE they don’t, but I’m sure they have a say in who they (appointed) Sheriff and they could rip that badge right off his chest. Just one more example of Ralphy doing whatever HE wants, and another feather in the hat for whoever runs against him in 6 months.

  2. Tim December 22, 2013 at 9:44 pm #

    He may be technically correct that the Sheriff is in charge of the Sheriff’s Department, he should remember that the Supervisors have a major impact on his budget. He apparently never learned that honey is better than what he laid out in what he spewed out. The whole “they should not have asked in public” notion is absurd, especially if the questions asked are due to Mono citizens and businesses inquiring to the Supervisors. An open discourse is key to a quality government, not this “this is my silo and no one else can see what is in it” crap.

    This further deepens my belief that the Mono County Sheriff’s is led by an unprofessional group of incompetents and that . I feel sorry for the good deputies that attempt to do their job in a professional manner and yet are tarnished by this good ol’ boys network of quasi-cops. Thank goodness that no major incident has happened in Mono for some time or else the failings of their leadership would be highlighted even further, unfortunately it may mean people get hurt or killed.

    • Desert Tortoise December 23, 2013 at 2:37 pm #

      The sheriff is elected by the public. If he is not satisfying the public, he can be voted out. You might view him as incompetent, but apparently a majority of those who voted did not share you view of the Sheriff.

      As far as the Sheriff being “technically right”, read the California Constitution. Sheriffs are elected officials under our Constitution. They do not answer to the BoS. It will require a Constitutional Amendment to change that. Until then, the BoS hands are very much tied. They can try to do things to the Sheriff’s budget, yes, but that can backfire on a BoS very quickly and make a hero/martyr out of the Sheriff, especially if something bad happens that can be laid at the feet of BoS budgetary decisions.

      • Benett Kessler December 23, 2013 at 4:14 pm #

        Point of accuracy – The Board of Supervisors appointed then Undersheriff Ralph Obenberger to the position of Sheriff when former Sheriff Rick Scholl retired.
        Benett Kessler

        • Big Rick OBrien December 24, 2013 at 1:48 am #

          AND, don’t forget that the “under-sheriff is an ” at will” employee who can be dumped at anytime for cause. Thankfully, and hopefully, the citizens of Mono County only have to endure this BS from Obie and his Toby for 6 more months.

      • Big Rick OBrien December 24, 2013 at 1:17 am #

        Anyone that didn’t know that the current Mono County Sheriff was NOT elected shouldn’t be commenting on his short-comings.

  3. Trouble December 23, 2013 at 5:07 am #

    What a ass!

    • Benett Kessler December 23, 2013 at 9:49 am #

      an ass.

      • Ken Warner December 23, 2013 at 11:07 am #

        While all you pedants are taking the time to be pedantic, why don’t you also take the time to quash the invective? There are a lot of good points lost in the maelstrom of unnecessarily snide comments.

        • Benett Kessler December 23, 2013 at 1:53 pm #

          That was a grammatical correction. Use “an” before words with vowels. An elephant. Snide is better than invective.

          • Mongo The Idiot December 23, 2013 at 4:08 pm #

            I’m stuck on an phalanx…

            It’s OK, I’ll just shift my attention to image of the week! And what a beauty it is. It looks to me like one of those pictures I would like to paint, except it may look contrived in oil and canvas. The picture defies logic. The whirling clouds are so very concentrated in that one area over Kearsarge, yet completely absent elsewhere.
            One day before a storm late last summer I saw a most interesting sunset in Inde’. The sky appeared to be made up of reddish and grey swirls that resembled curly hair. It was a rapidly changing scene that looked like an imagined fabrication; not expected from nature.
            It seems to me that there is a special property of The Owens in the fact that unusual natural phenomenon are commonplace. The Eastern Sierra almost daily gets its morning peaks brushed with superb golds, pinks, and padparadscha hues.
            I will never again venture out in this place without a camera. These sights once seen may be gone forever at the whim of our penchant for industrialization.
            As for the thread…
            Do nothing was the best thing to do because nothing was going to come of this anyway. The Sheriff is there to enforce the law, everyone knows and respects that! Why can’t we all go down to Aunt Bee’s for a nice slice of apple pie and forget the whole thing. Opie is getting up there in years (balding) and we got fish to catch… tick tock, tick tock…
            (spelling, usage, and grammar incorrect)

  4. Spurious Sheriff December 23, 2013 at 9:58 am #

    My understanding is this man had 5 uniformed deputies from the Bridgeport office attend this meeting and numerous others not in uniform. I am sure this is the THREAT Fesko spoke of when he said “A discussion needs to take place in an open, fair, unthreatening manner.” If this man was a true professional he should be able to address the board of supervisors like a grown man and stand up for himself, not lead a parade of indebted followers with him. Much less this was a complete misuse of taxpayers’ funds that he displayed. By taking his followers with him from the Bridgeport of office and away from their duties to “Support” him. If he were a REAL Sheriff clearly he should be able to speak for himself without feeling he needed a posse, to back him up.

    This is a perfect example of his “implied threat” and gestapo like tactics. If this isn’t a hostile supervisor, I don’t know what is. Not only is he hostile to his employees, he is hostile to his own bosses that appointed him. Do you think if he feels free to throw these kinds of conniving tantrums in public, he doesn’t do much worse in his own office? Come on folks…. don’t let this farce fool you!

    A Sheriff’s department is a public entity and should be operated in a professional manner, not in this cloak and dagger it is my department and you have no say so Good Ole Boy manner. Obenberger states that the sheriff’s department works for the constituents of Mono County,,,,, I guess he needs to be reminded that the BOS were ACTUALLY elected (unlike himself) by the those same constituents to represent and speak for them, so yes they do have every right to question what is going on in this department!

    • Desert Tortoise December 23, 2013 at 2:43 pm #

      You know a lot of us were not exactly upset at the DUI checkpoints. There are lot of loadies among the “Burners” driving up US 395 and many of us want these check points out there to find and arrest them. Just because you didn’t like it doesn’t mean a lot of us were opposed to them. The bottom line for the Sheriff is this, does he get reelected or not each year. If he doesn’t have to worry about being voted out, he can tell the BoS to pound sand. If you read papers from other regions of the state you will see this is a common dispute. Many counties have sheriffs who upset some political constituency with a voice on that counties BoS, but when the BoS tries to manage the Sheriff’s actions, Sheriffs all over the state tell BoSs to stuff it. There is a movement among some advocacy groups to make Sheriffs an appointed position, LA Times has written editorials advocating this, but this will require a Constitutional Amendment to achieve. Good luck with that.

    • John Barton December 23, 2013 at 2:56 pm #

      Ralphy O. is notorious for using intimidation and harrassment as a tool to try and get what he wants. Ask John Madrid. Ralph has a civil lawsuit coming his way and a number of deputies. At least his statements to the Supervisors only proves it is the Sheriff’s department who is behind these policies and not the county per se. Stay tuned!

  5. Watchdog December 23, 2013 at 1:42 pm #

    There is a growing consensus that this group of Mono County supervisors is the most incompetent ever. Self-serving, pretentious, arrogant, and not what you might call full of integrity whose only desire is to make the community better. Total political and ideological games from them and nothing more.

    • Benett Kessler December 23, 2013 at 1:47 pm #

      Benett Kessler

      • Desert Tortoise December 23, 2013 at 2:44 pm #

        There you go asking tough questions again. 🙂

      • Holding their feet to the fire December 24, 2013 at 6:21 am #

        Kudos to the sheriff for his willingness to butt heads with the worst, self-cherishing group of supervisors in Mono County history: the fish mogul who used his power to throw our money at his fish industry buddies; Johnston, who spearheaded the demoralizing power-broker tactic to reduce salaries of every department head (leaving the union employees’ salaries intact) while forgetting to reimburse monies that he and his wife were overpaid when they were both on the local government payroll; Fesko, the ideologue who wants us to believe “constituents made me do it!” (you know we’re going to hear that BS ad infinitum), and Hunt who has perhaps been around a wee bit too long.
        Somebody has to hold their feet to the fire. Way to go Sheriff! Let the message spread. Stop the self-serving corruption.

      • Conflicts of interest and censorship December 24, 2013 at 9:39 am #

        Examples WERE provided. One example cited concerns possible conflict of interest from a supervisor (who has purchased advertising space on this blog) has been mysteriously and unceremoniously deleted.

        When censorship comes to a society – that society is no longer a free one.

        • Benett Kessler December 24, 2013 at 9:55 am #

          I don’t get what you’re saying (?)

          • Watchdog December 24, 2013 at 10:12 am #

            Okay, I’ll play along. A supervisor (who happens to advertise on this format) convinced his fellow supervisors to monetarily assist the industry he formally built. On his site, he suggests this move is entirely kosher to the taxpayer since he no longer belongs to that industry therefore there is no conflict whatsoever on his part. This is no different than Lehman wanting the town of Mammoth to purchase Sam’s Woodsite (whose clients he represents).
            Keeping silent on these examples of conflict of interest and corruption the media becomes part of the problem.

          • Benett Kessler December 24, 2013 at 11:26 am #

            I don’t see any silence here, and Matthew Lehman is still in the real estate business, even though he has said he will take no commission if the Town buys the wood site. Alpers is not in the fish business. End of story.

          • Watchdog December 24, 2013 at 10:36 am #


            No conflict of interest?

          • Benett Kessler December 24, 2013 at 11:24 am #

            This three-year-old article offers no surprises. Alpers changed directions in his life. He also happens to know a lot about fisheries and DFG. Bottom line, he divested his interest in Conway Ranch.

          • No conflict? December 24, 2013 at 10:53 am #

            Subject co-founds local industry (fish)

            Fish industry takes a downward turn

            Subject runs for public office and wins

            Fellow supervisors vote to focus on fish industry

            Subject maintains he has divested all interest in fish industry

            Subject buys advertising on local blog – claiming no conflict of interest

            PT Barnum – “There’s a sucker born every minute.”

          • Benett Kessler December 24, 2013 at 11:21 am #

            Nowhere in your list is there an obvious conflict. As you know, fishing has long been a major part of summer tourism. This is not some new and surprising focus by the Mono Board. Mr. Alpers’ advertising his website on our website will never prevent me from reporting on his activities as I see them. He knows that. Alpers wants to increase visitorship on his website. Our website draws as many as 20,000 unique individuals every month 49,000 times. It’s a good ad buy.
            Benett Kessler

          • Watchdog December 24, 2013 at 12:44 pm #

            ” Matthew Lehman is still in the real estate business, even though he has said he will take no commission if the Town buys the wood site.”

            We all know politicians and elected officials would never try to BS anybody. If a politician tells the media something – we all know it’s the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

            Love your sense of humor, Benett.

          • Benett Kessler December 24, 2013 at 4:33 pm #

            No joke, where’s your evidence of truth?

    • H December 23, 2013 at 6:58 pm #

      While I totally disagree with your generalized comments regarding the current Board of Supervisors, I do have a problem with Mr. Johnston’s involvement with this issue. Some feedback for Larry, please don’t get a “god complex” and think you can solve every issue and work within your limits as a Supervisor. By the way Watchdog, are you a former Supervisor who was voted out of office?

      • $200K a term for what? December 24, 2013 at 8:57 am #

        By the way “H”, are you a former (or current) Mono County supervisor who is raking in almost $50,000 a year (that’s almost $200,000 a term + benefits, car allowances and perks) for showing up twice a month at meetings?

      • Watchdog December 24, 2013 at 9:47 am #

        The power-brokers who earn $200K per term are clearly out of control.

  6. Shine December 23, 2013 at 4:06 pm #

    Let Grand Jury sort it out.

  7. Eastern Sierra Local December 23, 2013 at 4:24 pm #

    The irony of his comment “I uphold the US Constitution (sic)” yet the Constitution prohibits EXACTLY what his office did, illegal search and seizure!

    • Reality Check December 23, 2013 at 7:33 pm #

      ESL, EXACTLY what illegal search and seizure are you talking about???

      Please be specific.

  8. Just Curious December 23, 2013 at 6:10 pm #

    Eastern Sierra Local,
    Can you provided any examples or cases that you can provide factual evidence to support your claim of illegal search’s or stops where done? Because if Im not mistaken pointless and less than factual claims such as yours are what started this whole BOS, Sheriff issue?

    Just saying

  9. Pedro December 24, 2013 at 12:19 am #

    Smells like a duck, but does it walk like a duck…?
    Prove Bridgeport “saturation patrol” was de facto narcotics interdiction checkpoint and it’s unconstitutional. No alternate route to opt out, forces you to slow down to point where officers can observe you and interior of vehicle closely, making and publicizing only narcotic arrests, bringing in narcotic dogs from other agencies, possibly profiling … Good lawyer and a fat wad of cash might get you somewhere.
    Most people probably consented to search and interrogation so it’s a moot point for them. How many convictions so far?

    • Desert Tortoise December 24, 2013 at 12:04 pm #

      When you take a motor vehicle onto a public highway you have given your consent to be stopped and produce proof of registration, insurance and your driver’s license. It is called implied consent. If you don’t like it, don’t drive. Driving a motor vehicle is a privilege earned by passing routine tests and by not violating laws or causing too many collisions. Driving is emphatically not a right. Follow the rules or park it. I am tired of hearing people snivel about DUI check points.

      • Benett Kessler December 24, 2013 at 4:38 pm #

        Dear DT,
        Hope you take a much-needed respite during the holidays for a bit of meditation, perhaps an intoxicating egg nog (not while driving!) and a blissful few moments watching “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
        Cheers, Benett

  10. John December 24, 2013 at 6:56 am #

    Obenberger must be a good Sheriff. He came highly endorsed by Hap Hazard.

  11. really? December 24, 2013 at 1:17 pm #

    So, two members of the Mono Board of Supervisors, who have also sworn to uphold the constitution of the US and the State of California, want to pick and choose what laws the Sheriff’s department decides to uphold? They think they know more than the Supreme Court, who has deemed checkpoints to be constitutional?

    You want examples of conflict of interest? How about the fact that the newly appointed Assessor was a consultant by Supervisor Fesko in his recent property tax appeal? He was appointed Assessor even though he has been a Mono County employee on two previous occasions.

    Way to go Sheriff Obenberger. Several other county Boards in this state have tried to challenge the Sheriff on these issues, and lost, costing the counties hundreds of thousands of dollars in the process. I hope the Mono Board doesn’t repeat this fiasco!

    • Benett Kessler December 24, 2013 at 4:31 pm #

      The items you bring up about the Assessor do not constitute conflicts of interest as you have presented them. To make sure our story was clear, Supervisor Johnston wanted to discuss checkpoints. No one was strong-arming a constitutional court fight.
      Benett Kessler

  12. Mngru January 21, 2014 at 4:32 pm #

    Lone Reader, it’s unlikely that pelope who make statements similiar to yours were voting for the current administration anyway. Consider this a validation of what you already thought and seize the opportunity today and vote for change.


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