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16 March, 2009


Robert Eringer, The Investigator, no longer works at the News-Press and although we will probably never know the details as to his being let go, we do have access to his last column. It is a rather scathing attack on Police Chief Cam Sanchez that makes quite a few allegations and uncovers dirty family laundry. Is this last, unpublished article what got him fired?


by Robert Eringer

Last week’s column on Police Chief Camerino Sanchez’s abuse of authority evoked an avalanche of e-mail to The Investigator. The Wayne Scoles trial, and the apparent misconduct of Chief Sanchez, has clearly touched a community nerve.

Anecdotes starring Chief Sanchez as a bully filled our mailbox, with several correspondents requesting we keep their names and stories confidential for fear of reprisal. (At what point did Santa Barbara enter a time warp and land in the former Soviet Union?)

Others corroborated eardrum erosion from a line that seems to be the chief’s menacing mantra: “I’m not someone you want to mess with.”

Chief Sanchez also reportedly yelled, “Get the f--- out of my city!” at his elderly father-in-law, Danny Gonzales, after allegedly coming up from behind and pushing the 77 year-old at a Santa Barbara rehabilitation center, to which Mr. Gonzales had traveled from Los Angeles to visit his ailing wife, Amida.

Mr. Gonzales’s son, Daniel, who witnessed this assault and battery, told The Investigator: “As my father left a conference room after talking to a hospital administrator, he was followed down the hallway by Cam Sanchez, who then pushed my father in the back while yelling at him ‘to get the f--- out of my city.’ My father, although nearly falling, was able to keep on his feet. As Cam Sanchez is police chief, my father thought it would be futile to file a report.”

Mr. Gonzales and his son are estranged from their daughter/sister Olivia Guadalupe Sanchez and her husband, Cam Sanchez, stemming from an incident 10 years ago when Mr. and Mrs. Sanchez allegedly attempted to fleece them out of their 50 percent share of an LA real estate investment.

"My mom and dad forgot to have a deed recorded,” Daniel Gonzales told The Investigator. “Time passed. Cam and Lupe took advantage of them and, in a case of elder abuse, fraudulently embezzled their 50 percent share of the property by creating a new deed that he signed and deeded to himself. The embezzlement was not discovered until years later. When Cam and Lupe were confronted with what they had done, they refused to remedy the situation.”

Continued Daniel Gonzales: “My mom and dad wanted the property sold, and fought with Cam and Lupe about selling it. Finally, Cam and Lupe would only agree to sell the property and split the proceeds 50/50 if mom and dad would sign a new deed showing that Cam and Lupe held 75 percent interest. I imagine this was done for tax fraud purposes so Cam and Lupe could show 75 percent ownership interest yet receive only 50 percent of the proceeds. Cam and Lupe did a 1031 tax deferred exchange with their proceeds and purchased a property in Lompoc."

We revert to the Lompoc property later in this column.

First, a sampling of missives from readers conveyed to The Investigator:

"The Wayne Scoles trial shows the police chief’s true colors, often law-bending in favor of Hispanics. One example is the sympathy he shows to gang members, thus the lack of introduction of a gang injunction here. I have seen him try to buddy-up to congregating gang members on numerous occasions, once telling them to pour out their beer at a beach instead of arresting them or writing tickets, which is the rule of law."

And: “Hauling Mr. Scoles off to the station where Detective Hunter tried to intimidate him into a confession is even more bothersome. Are we becoming Guantanamo-by-the-Pacific?”

This refers to Jaycee Hunter, who last year was prepared to Taser a Critical Mass bicyclist for running a red light--a transgression this peace officer depicted as “terrorist-type behavior.” Detective Hunter has now taken to writing City Council members to say that Wayne Scoles is not innocent.

Dear Jaycee: Innocent until proven guilty is a basic tenet of our legal system. Which means that if a jury found Mr. Scoles “not guilty” (as it did), he remains, in fact, “innocent.” Perhaps you are confusing the state of your policing with police state.

But we digress. Back to missives on Cam Sanchez: “Collusion, lies and cover-ups seem to be the hallmark of law enforcement in Santa Barbara.”

And: “The police chief’s behavior should be investigated by the DA’s office or a grand jury.”

And: “It is too bad Santa Barbara cannot do better than to hire someone so out of his league.”

And: “He arrests an advocate for the elderly because he can’t take the heat when a citizen displays displeasure with the poor job he is doing fighting crime in the Mesa area. He should resign or be removed.”

We also received a curious tip-off regarding Chief Sanchez’s property holdings—a lead we investigated and confirmed.

Some context: On July 20th, 2001, in response to a request from Cam Sanchez, City Council approved a low-interest “sweetheart” loan of $500,000 for him to purchase a house in Santa Barbara. This was due to Santa Barbara’s relatively high cost of living and requirement that a police chief resides within city limits.

Now our finding: Several years after assuming the position of police chief, Mr. Sanchez and his wife purchased two additional California houses, which they utilize as rental-income properties.

The first, purchased on December 24th, 2003, is in Lompoc.

The second, purchased on November 8th, 2005, is in La Habra.

An obvious question: If Chief Sanchez could afford to buy two houses and lease them to tenants for rental income, why did he request a sweetheart mortgage loan from the City—and why did City Council feel obliged to provide it?

Surely, the City required Mr. Sanchez to submit a financial disclosure statement to qualify for such a loan.

Guess again.

We e-mailed City Administrator Jim Armstrong with a request to see such disclosure.

“No,” replied Marcelo Lopez, Administrative Services Director. There is nothing to see because City Council sought no financial disclosure.

Which means the City conducted no due diligence to determine if a sweetheart loan was warranted.

We requested to see the Chief’s employment contract.

“City Heads do not have employment contracts,” Mr. Lopez told The Investigator. “They work at will.”

This means there is no fixed term to Chief Sanchez’s tenure as police chief.

It also means he can be dismissed “at will,” for any reason, at any time, by the City Administrator.

Next, rule of scofflaw: Chief Sanchez has an unpaid bill (since early 2007) with Pueblo Radiology. He did not show up for a hearing in Civil & Small Claims Court to contest this bill, just ignored it--despite having received a summons. So on July 17th, 2008 a default judgment/lien in the amount of $1,917.71 was awarded to CMRE Financial Services Inc. against him.

It begs this question: Does Chief Sanchez, who is sworn to uphold the law, consider himself personally above the law with regard to a) showing up in court when properly served with a summons and b) paying his medical bills?

Finally, a bizarre comment from Mayor Marty Blum after we enquired about Chief Sanchez’s employment with reference to allegations of misconduct: “I hope,” she wrote, “that you also investigate allegations of good conduct on behalf of Chief Sanchez.”

Excuse us?

Wasn’t it the City’s responsibility to conduct due diligence to establish Cam Sanchez’s “good conduct” before hiring him to be police chief—and to verify his neediness to receive a low- interest home loan, courtesy of the tax-paying public?

Madame Mayor, with all due respect, it is the role of investigative journalism to prod and test for misconduct, not to supplement the City’s due diligence—which, in this case, was diddlysquat. In any case, you need not fret; we haven’t received any “allegations of good conduct on behalf of Chief Sanchez” to investigate—only allegations pertaining to embezzlement, tax fraud, elder abuse, assault & battery, and behavior befitting a deadbeat.

And it smells worse than El Estero Wastewater Treatment Plant on a dog day the morning after Fiesta.

If you have a story for The Investigator, you can contact him at State if your query is confidential.

Robert Eringer's blog is:


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