Our View: Nevada County deserves more than silence on investigation of elected official | TheUnion.com

Our View: Nevada County deserves more than silence on investigation of elected official

Local law enforcement officers served a search warrant in broad daylight on the home of an elected official, who is seeking another elected office one week from today, but won’t say why?

Considering the timing of said investigation, the act itself could certainly damage the candidate’s chances at being elected, regardless of why officers arrived on the doorstep to search the home.

Why were they there? What did they confiscate? What did those items reveal? What is the nature of the crime being investigated?

These are all questions raised by the Nevada County Sheriff’s Office’s service of the search warrant, questions that the sheriff’s office has readily answered in previous cases involving search warrants. And we suggest, considering the timing of the investigation and the search warrant it initiated, the sheriff’s office owes it to the electorate to provide answers.

After confirming the Friday service of a search warrant on an elected official’s home, Nevada County Undersheriff Joe Salivar told The Union. “The official comment is that we do not comment on ongoing investigations.”

That might sound odd to one local business owner, who nearly one year ago, was the subject of an investigation that led to a search of several properties he owned. Although the investigation was ongoing and service of the warrant did not lead to the immediate arrest of the business owner, just as was the case with the elected official Friday, Nevada County Sheriff’s Office deputies did provide the kind of information sought by the questions above.

“We located marijuana under cultivation at all of the properties,” an officer said at the time. Also reported by NCSO, in the service of that warrant, officers seized “more than 100 pounds of marijuana and more than 400 hydrocodone pills,” as well as “metal knuckles inside a safe.”

But once forwarded to the District Attorney’s Office, the case against the business owner was dropped due to insufficient evidence. The Sheriff’s Office defended the decision to release the information amid criticism for doing so.

“This was not a small case,” said Sheriff’s Lt. Steve Tripp, who oversees the Narcotics Task Force. “We’re not going to treat (the business owner) differently than anyone else. … We didn’t (publicize) it because of his position in the community. It had to do with the size of the case.”

Salivar told The Union that because the search warrant served on the elected official’s home was sealed by the court, officers are not able to comment on it. That seems disingenuous, however, considering it was the sheriff’s office that actually requested the warrant to be sealed; and it leaves Nevada County voters with a couple more questions to consider:

Is the nature of the investigation into the elected official not as significant as that of the business owner? Or are there two sets of standards for such an investigation, one for a private citizen and another for an elected official?

Upon further questioning, the sheriff’s office said the investigation was sparked by a tipster. But beyond saying the elected official had been allegedly misusing the county’s computer system, the questions remain:

Why were they there? What did they confiscate? What did those items reveal? What is the nature of the crime being investigated?

Without answers to any of the above, members of the community are already questioning whether the investigation is politically motivated, considering as the investigation continues actual charges could be days or weeks away, if filed at all.

And with Election Day now one week away, silence from law enforcement responsible for the investigation does not seem fair to the voters, the candidate in question or the community at large.

Our View represents the opinions of The Union Editorial Board, which is comprised of members of The Union staff, as well as informed members of the community.

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