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County settles Sheriff eavesdropping case for $660,000

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The County of San Luis Obispo has agreed to pay former Sheriff’s Deputy Gary Hoving $660,000 to settle an eavesdropping suit. In the civil lawsuit, filed last year, Sheriff Patrick Hedges and Undersheriff Steve Bolts were accused of illegally wiretapping Hoving’s office, violating his civil rights.

The settlement will directly cost the county $250,000. The rest will be covered by insurance.

Hedges will not have to pay out any money to the deputy because the alleged offense happened while he was on duty, according to county officials.

Hedges’ camp was apparently caught off guard by the settlement, which came just weeks after the state Attorney General announced there would be no criminal charges filed against Hedges.

Hedges’ attorney called Hoving’s case “weak, almost nonexistent” in a statement, which goes on, claiming: “It was the county’s decision to pay this money; the Sheriff and Undersheriff were not consulted or even told of it by the county.”

County Administrative Officer David Edge said that he could not confirm the settlement, but said that Hedges’ attorney had previously signed off on a settlement figure of $695,000. So, by implication, he said, Hedges had accepted this offer.

“In terms of being left out of negotiation,” Edge said, “[Hedges] is not on the hook for paying any of the money. The county and insurance are the ones who will have to pay.”

The sheriff never denied videotaping the deputy, but argued that the wiretapping was legal because he was conducting a criminal investigation into allegations of impropriety in his department’s narcotics division. Those allegations were later described as unfounded.

Documents and transcripts from the lawsuit, however, cast doubt on Hedges’ claims. According to several accounts, Hedges first became interested in bugging his subordinate after he was told Hoving had “made fun of” him to others.

Edge, who was not a part of the negotiation, said that the settlement was likely more of an economic decision than a judgment of guilt or legal merit. Hoving originally asked for $1.25 million, almost twice the amount he will receive.

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