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San Joaquin County supervisors react to Dunn's guilty plea

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Posted: Thursday, January 13, 2005 10:00 pm

San Joaquin County supervisors reacted with sadness and some indignation at the news that Sheriff Baxter Dunn retired and accepted a guilty plea for mail fraud in the federal charges against him.

Biography: Baxter Dunn

• Dunn, 57, has three daughters. He is a graduate of Manteca High School, San Joaquin Delta College and California State University, Sacramento.
• He started with the department as a cadet in 1967.

Baxter Dunn

• From 1984 to 1987, he served as commander of the county jail and took charge of the Coroner's Division. He has also been the Chief of Custody and Chief of Operations.
• He was first elected sheriff in June 1990. He was elected to three subsequent four-year terms.
• He helped develop the STARS program which puts volunteers, many of them seniors, on patrol.
• He re-established the county's Metropolitan Narcotics Task Force, which the former sheriff had disbanded in the late 1980s.
-- News-Sentinel staff

"It's a sad day when a law enforcement officer faces retirement based on charges brought forth," Supervisor Victor Mow said.

The guilty plea was an indication that Dunn abused his position, he said.

"That's never a good sign in terms of public official violating the trust of office," Mow said.

Mow said he thought Dunn would go to trial rather than plead guilty to a lesser charge and then retire.

"But the way it played out, with (N. Allen) Sawyer making a plea, then (former county supervisor Lynn) Bedford and now Sheriff Dunn, obviously, there's something there," Mow said.

The supervisor said he wanted to put the entire matter behind him, while putting public safety first.

"We need to restore trust in the sheriff's office," Mow said.

Also, when supervisors decide to find a replacement for Dunn it should be with the possibility of bringing in someone new to the department, Mow said.

That person should be aware that the office is an elected position, he said.

"The public put him there," Mow said.

For right now, whoever is appointed in the interim will "keep the seat warm," Mow said.

Dunn was elected to a four-year term, which expires in 2006.

Just if or when the board will vote on a replacement is unknown. But a report from county counsel will probably happen Tuesday, Supervisor Steve Gutierrez said.

Gutierrez said he was stunned at the news.

"I didn't know that this was going to happen," he said. "It's either a retirement or resignation."

The sheriff has 30 days to retire or sooner based on state law, Gutierrez said. Even then, there are already processes in place that guarantees the continued operation of the Sheriff's Department, he said.

Supervisor Leroy Ornellas said the retirement was probably "part of a deal with the feds."

"Eventually, the county will put this behind us," he said.

But for the time being, the events will remain high on the radar screens.

"We'll hear more of what these individuals were doing," Ornellas said.

While he expressed confidence in the people now running the sheriff's office, Dunn's friends shouldn't apply to be his replacement, said Ornellas, who blamed Dunn and the others for running "roughshod over the county."

"If you wanted to develop anything in this county that was anyway connected to the Board of Supervisors, you had to go through them," he said.

Ornellas said he wished the events never happened.

"I would have preferred that these people never conspired to do what they did," he said. "I wish I had never heard the names of (Monte) McFall, Bedford, Dunn or anybody else associated with this."

Contact reporter Les Mahler at lmahler@sjnsnews.com.

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