It’s boss versus employee on this June’s ballot.
Stanislaus County Sheriff-Coroner Adam Christianson will look to defend his seat against Sheriff’s Deputy Tom Letras.
Christianson, Sheriff for the past eight years, is running for his third term. Letras, who has worked at the Sheriff’s Department for 17 years, says the time is right for someone new.
“I’m up here as a candidate for change,” Letras said. “I’m up here because I believe, as Sheriff, I need to be accountable to you for what goes on out there in our communities.”
Letras says he’s particularly concerned with the number of deputies on patrol. Jail beds are closed for lack of deputies, and the local police academy has been closed for ages. He says he wants to provide better law enforcement services to all who live in Stanislaus County.
Christianson acknowledges the challenges of the past four years, lowlighted by a 25 percent funding cut which reduced staffing and services. The department fell from 214 sworn officers to 144.
But those cuts were driven by the Great Recession, he says. The department is already rebounding alongside the economy, hiring for the first time in four years and back up to 156 officers.
“We have a great future and a lot to look forward to,” Christianson said. “A chance to put back together what we were forced to tear apart, and restore service and staffing to the people of Stanislaus County.”
Those cuts could have been avoided, Letras said, if the department spent money more wisely. He says the department is wasting money sending recruits to out-of-area training academies. And he says more than $10 million has been spent on needless lawsuits.
“It’s way too much money, way too much money that’s been spent on these lawsuits that can go to other things,” Letras said.
Letras says that the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department administration needs to reestablish a working relationship with employees and labor groups. He says concerns can be addressed before lawsuits are filed.
Christianson says the lawsuits are a “byproduct of holding employees to a higher standard.” He says the number of lawsuits is roughly comparable to other similarly sized departments, and that the county’s insurance paid for much of the lawsuits’ cost; they did not result in a $10 million impact on the county itself.
“Lawsuits come along, but ladies and gentlemen, we won them,” Christianson countered. “Every single one.”
And the department also won awards against those who filed fraudulent lawsuits, he said.
As for the academy, Christianson says it’s more cost-effective to send recruits to Alameda County than to operate a local academy.
Both Letras and Christianson are supporters of concealed weapons permits, though Letras says they should be processed more quickly. Christianson is adamantly opposed to marijuana, which is illegal under federal law, where Letras says the law must be clarified to remove the gray area of questionable legality under state law.
Christianson believes his “experienced leadership” will carry him to victory this June 3. Letras, on the other hand, hopes voters will look poorly upon their experience with Christianson.
“You as voters are the ones who need to hold your elected officials accountable,” Letras said.
The Stanislaus County Sheriff-Coroner is paid $172,366.48 per year.