That ringing youre hearing in your ear, John Pedrozo? Thats your constituents calling to say theyre infuriated.
Pedrozo should take those calls and pay close attention.
A county supervisor since 2004, Pedrozo apparently tried to interfere in May as a police officer wrote up one of his staff members on an outstanding warrant, driving on a suspended license, expired registration and no proof of insurance. It was Brenda Valenzuela-Porras second serious encounter with Merced police. Back in March 2012, she had been charged with driving 80 mph down G Street because she needed to find a bathroom after having had two vodka cocktails.
Having ignored much of the fallout resulting from that encounter, Valenzuela-Porras knew she was in trouble when pulled over in May. So she called her boss and then handed the phone to Sgt. Jay Struble who took it but told Pedrozo he wouldnt speak to him about the situation.
Thats when Pedrozo crossed the line, telling Struble he would be calling the officers boss, Police Chief Norm Andrade which he did. But that also got Pedrozo nowhere. So he crossed the line again, writing a letter, on official county stationery, to a judge on Valenzuela-Porras behalf.
It gets worse. When Sun-Star reporter Ramona Giwargis dug deeper, she found Valenzuela-Porras history of infractions and of evading the consequences. Valenzuela-Porras had even checked out county cars while her license was suspended. She denies having driven the cars, but wont say who did.
The Sun-Stars website and letters to the editor have reflected outrage. Readers are angry at the staffer and the supervisor. Many hinted they believe there is more to the story. We hope not; this is bad enough.
Pedrozos only excuse is that Valenzuela-Porras is like a daughter to him. But good parents dont excuse DUIs; they dont hand over the car keys to someone who is a danger to herself and others. They dont make excuses to authorities for their childrens dangerous misbehavior. Valenzuela-Porras is no child. Shes a mother, 29 years old, who has had several previous brushes with the law eight license suspensions. She has no excuses.
Neither does Pedrozo. He tried to intimidate an officer performing his duty.
In all of this, Valenzuela-Porras was correct in one thing: She told Sgt. Struble that her job was on the line. We hope so. And with the comments being made by his Merced constituents, we hope Pedrozo knows the same is true for him.
There is a bigger issue here. If Pedrozo truly feels he did nothing wrong, he needs a better understanding of ethical behavior. Using his position to try to influence the decisions of the police and a judge was a clear breach of ethics.
Merced County has a code of ethics, but it applies only to employees not elected officials. Across the state and nation, counties have established rules for elected leaders. Its time that Merced County joined them with rules and appropriate repercussions. Perhaps Pedrozo could propose it.
Failing that, theres another avenue to accountability. A civil grand jury could look into the ethical conduct of county supervisors.