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Overwhelmed

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Since I wrote my last little rant on vaccinations and COVID-19, SLO Mayor Heidi Harmon quit, defense attorneys in the Kristin Smart case subpoenaed a journalist, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) released a scathing report detailing constitutional rights abuses at the SLO County Jail, and SLO County Public Health Officer Penny Borenstein finally implemented a mask mandate because duh!

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Wowee. After a fairly benign news month—aside from that whole cannabis magnate Helios Dayspring/former county supervisor Adam Hill bribery thing (!)—I thought my gears were starting to rust.

I don't even know who to sharpen these teeth on first! We'll go with the low-hanging flower—Heidi "No Longer the Mayor" Harmon. The timing is suspicious, and Harmon's been unusually quiet of late, you know since that DOJ announcement about the bribery (that agency loves dropping big news like a casual bomb into New Times' email inbox) that one could speculate involves her former campaign manager and former Dayspring sidekick Nick Andre.

Do we think a text her adult kid sent her in the middle of the night caused her to have a change of heart about her career path? Or was she just sick of the complainers calling into SLO City Council meetings week after week, sick of the haters screaming at her in all caps through her social media accounts and sometimes on the street?

Or was it the lack of money, like she said? I know quite a few people who are living in SLO on the same salary she was making as the mayor: It sucks but they do it. And her fellow City Council members have jobs and do their elected duties—SLO Councilmembers Andy Pease and Erica Stewart both seem to think they could do their jobs and be mayor. But who am I to judge?

Meanwhile, I guess SLO County is about to learn just how far First Amendment rights extend when it comes to protecting journalists, thanks to murder defendant Paul Flores' attorneys, who seem to be throwing everything they can at the wall to get their client off the hook. Your Own Backyard Podcaster Chris Lambert is unfairly in the hot seat over his part in Flores finally getting arrested a quarter century after Smart disappeared.

Defense attorneys—father-daughter duo Robert (whose claim to fame is getting Michael Jackson out of a child molestation charge in 2005) and Sarah Sangers—are claiming that Lambert "influenced" potential witnesses, so they want all the names of everyone he spoke to and all his notes on everything to do with his podcast about the Smart case. Sure seems overly broad to me. Shouldn't those questions be directed at the law enforcement officers who actually conducted the investigation that led to Flores and his father's arrest? Last I checked, Lambert hadn't arrested or filed charges against anybody in the case. Or am I missing something?

Speaking of law enforcement officers, the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Office can't seem to shake allegations of jail mistreatment. And, finally, everyone gets to see the results of an investigation into those shady shenanigans thanks to the DOJ. This agency deserves several rounds of applause for rooting out the misdeeds in our county—because all the county seems to want to do is sweep them under the proverbial rug and hope no one notices. Fast claps only.

Remember that independent "outside" assessment SLO County Counsel Rita Neal's office commissioned on the jail after the details of inmate Andrew Holland's death came out? The assessment that Neal repeatedly refused to release to the public. Well, now we know why.

The DOJ details abuse after abuse in a 50-page document alleging constitutional rights abuses at the jail, including (but not limited to) failure to provide adequate medical and mental health care, using excessive force with impunity, placing inmates in prolonged restrictive housing, and a lack of Americans with Disabilities Act compliance.

Excessive force with impunity, you guys! Don't worry, though, the Sheriff's Office told New Times it takes use of force complaints seriously.

Well, thanks to this little DOJ report, we no longer just have to take Sheriff Ian Parkinson's word for it. The investigation found that the jail "consistently" failed to adequately investigate use of force incidents, often ignored or omitted "critical evidence including video footage," that jail staffers doctored incident reports to cover their abuses, and there were clear inconsistencies between narrative and video accounts of incidents.

WTF? Time for a citizens' oversight committee yet?

There should be outrage over this report. On the SLO County Board of Supervisors and in the community. But we're a slow lot in SLO County. We had to wait until the COVID-19 pandemic was worse than the winter surge to actually implement an indoor mask mandate because the political climate is so bad here.

People are in denial, and Borenstein, when she announced the mandate on Aug. 31, stated that she wished she didn't have to do it. But our ICUs are filled with COVID-19 patients, again. The number of cases is increasing so rapidly (600 in one weekend!), she doesn't have a choice.

And still we have people decrying the pandemic as a farce. Still. What's it going to take, guys? A U.S. DOJ investigation? Δ

The Shredder is in love with the DOJ. Send love letters to shredder@newtimesslo.com.

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