Let the infighting begin (again)!

There’s still three months before the election, but the race for sheriff got pretty hot this week.

Sheriff Scott Mackenzie is steamed that his challenger, Perry Reniff, wants to list his Sheriff’s Department rank as captain on the March ballot and maintains that Reniff holds only the lower rank of sergeant.

The context here is that the two have been bitter rivals since 1998, when Reniff lost the office to Mackenzie in 1998. Mackenzie then demoted his defeated opponent three ranks, from assistant sheriff to sergeant, as part of an overall management reorganization.

Reniff, a 30-year veteran of the department who has been a vocal critic of Mackenzie’s flashy, politically crafty management style, insists that a personnel claim he filed after the demotion allows him to use the rank of captain “for the purposes of finding outside employment.”

Mackenzie in turn insists that running for sheriff doesn’t apply. Mackenzie went so far as to ask County Counsel Bruce Alpert to look into the issue two weeks ago, and Alpert issued a statement this week siding with him.

Reniff has said he still disagrees but won’t press the issue into court.

But that’s not the end of it. Reniff is also steamed that the Deputy Sheriffs Association, the department’s rank-and-file union, endorsed Mackenzie on a 21-20 vote last week. He points out that only a small fraction of the union’s 131-deputy membership showed up for the voting meeting and charges that DSA President Victoria Coots, who supports Mackenzie’s bid for re-election, didn’t properly notify his supporters of the meeting. Coots didn’t return several calls for comment on the allegations.

For his part, Mackenzie dismissed the charges, saying he “doesn’t know a lot about all that.

"All I know is that they endorsed me," he said.