As the Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Council meltdown escalates from
name-calling to dueling lawsuits, one political candidate has
officially stepped forward to challenge Sheriff Jim Anderson for
his job. Lieutenant Ugo “Butch” Arnoldi, a 32-year veteran of the
Sheriff’s Department, confirmed he would run against Anderson in
this coming June’s election. Arnoldi, who came up short in a bid
for sheriff four years ago, charged, “Morale here is at an all-time
low. It’s never been worse. We need some real leadership and new

Arnoldi faulted Anderson for mishandling the ongoing fracas
within the Sheriff’s Council — the private nonprofit made up of
deep-pocketed volunteers who raise funds for bulletproof vests,
search-and-rescue helicopters, and other big-ticket items — but
insisted he would have run anyway. While Arnoldi is regarded with
respect and affection in local law-enforcement circles, he is not
perceived as the serious threat to Anderson that Santa Barbara
Sheriff’s Commander Dominick Palera or Lompoc Police Chief Bill
Brown might be. On Monday, Chief Brown confirmed he’s interested in
running for sheriff, but said he hasn’t yet made up his mind.
Palera had been widely expected to run, but after meeting with
Anderson on Tuesday, the 23-year veteran of the department decided
against it.

Turmoil has continued to dog Anderson despite his efforts to
distance himself from the unraveling Sheriff’s Council. Immediately
following Anderson’s sudden, inelegant disavowal of the council in
mid-December, five former Sheriff’s Council presidents filed a
lawsuit seeking to freeze the council’s bank accounts, alleging
that current council president-elect and Anderson ally Helen Jepsen
used a previous employer’s business credit card to misappropriate
$123,000. The lawsuit also charged Jepsen refused numerous requests
to see the Sheriff’s Council books and financial records, and
demanded a forensic audit be prepared. Jepsen denied ever
withholding access to any council business records to any member or
director, stating, “That’s absolutely false.”

Jepsen was equally emphatic in denying claims she misused the
credit card belonging to her previous employer, Dr. Bill Meller,
who had filed a complaint with Santa Barbara police, who in turn
declined to take action after investigating the charge. Likewise,
the District Attorney’s office dropped the matter after concluding
it could not prove intent to steal because Meller had allowed
Jepsen to use the company credit card for personal uses. Jepsen
said she planned to sue Meller for defamation of character and
declined to discuss specifics of his allegations upon advice of her
attorney, Pete Bezek, who vowed to make Jepsen’s accusers “put up
or shut up” by providing evidence supporting their charges.

As for the “Anderson Five,” Jepsen dismissed her adversaries,
charging they were roiled by the notion of a woman as council
president. Jepsen also alleged the five were in league with former
sheriff Jim Thomas, whom she charged was on a mission to bring down
Anderson, who defeated Thomas’s hand-picked successor, Dave Dorsey,
in the last sheriff’s election. Thomas has made it clear he wants
Anderson gone, indicating he’ll run if no credible candidates
emerge. But Thomas, who founded the Sheriff’s Council, expressed
profound displeasure with the council’s decision to provide badges
to members who donate $10,000. “Badges just aren’t for sale,” he
said. “There’s always an expectation by the people who get them
that they’ll be treated differently.” Thomas was also angered by
Anderson’s decision to allow the Chumash to place their stickers on
search-and-rescue vehicles in exchange for a $125,000 donation to
the council. After a similar outcry by many of his command staff,
Anderson reversed himself and the rescue vehicles remained


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