Among Sacramento, Calif.-area sheriffs, the term “wrestling for control” can be taken literally. And the conflict splitting their 1,700-member union has one faction reportedly planning a racketeering suit against the other. On Friday, June 29, months-long dissension within the Sacramento County Deputy Sheriffs’ Association came to a head at union headquarters. The two factions consist of members who support President Steven Fisk and those who support Vice President Brannon Polete. And neither side seems willing to yield an inch.
Last September, Polete and the union board ousted Fisk, alleging misconduct. Fisk sued to get his job back, successfully; Sacramento Superior Court Judge Gail Ohanesian on May 31 ordered that Fisk be recognized as the rightful president. Once back in office, Fisk quickly fired Polete. In response, Polete and the union board suspended Fisk. But Fisk has control of the union’s funds. And he plans to use them to destroy Polete and his allies. “I’m going to prove a point,” said Fisk. “When it’s all said and done, they’re going to leave a legacy for being stupid.” The biggest legacy so far, it would seem, has been a mild brawl.
On Friday, June 15, Fisk returned to his office after an extended absence. It was a setup. “I buffaloed (Polete) into thinking I was there to make peace,” he said. Fisk had arranged for a group of his supporters to wait outside. His crew used the occasion to confront Polete and his supporters and order them out of the area. Polete’s people said they were staying put. A shoving match ensued. Fisk called Sacramento city police, requesting that they eject his opponents from the premises. Eventually, around 5 P.M., everyone left. While no injuries were reported, bad blood continued to simmer. The following Monday morning, Polete turned the tables on his enemies. He and six deputies, accompanied by a locksmith, broke into Fisk’s office with guns on their hips, badges flashing and “Sheriff’s Official Business” placards displayed on their car dashboards.
Fisk’s attorney, Gary Gorski, meanwhile, is drafting a federal racketeering suit alleging that Polete and his supporters on the sheriffs’ association board committed election fraud in a contract vote and approved the break-in. Gorski puts it this way: “What gets me is the Al Capone tactics of them going in there with guns and badges. They are so desperate they did not understand what they are doing.” Polete, by contrast, has no plans to take legal action beyond defending himself from any pending suit. “Cops shouldn’t be suing cops, (union) members shouldn’t be suing members,” he said. “This should be within the confines of the association. Period. This entire issue we’re dealing with is an embarrassment to the association.” The oddest aspect about this civil war is that neither Polete nor Fisk plan to run for re-election. At this point, they might as well get along. (Sacramento Bee, 7/4/07).