Reniff: Out with the beer and fancy cars

Pointing to a stack of invoices and payroll records, sheriff candidate Perry Reniff charged Tuesday that his opponent, incumbent Sheriff Scott Mackenzie, is blatantly wasting money hiring his friends and allowing his deputies to run up expensive tabs at mandatory out-of-town classes.

Reniff produced an internal memo written by former General Services Director Mike Pyeatt questioning a $3,600 car rental invoice submitted by Budget Rent-A-Car in June 2000 and approved by Mackenzie’s administration. According to the letter, five sheriff’s deputies attending the same two-week training conference in Huntington Beach all rented different cars and upgraded their rentals from economy to full size or luxury.

The invoices were approved for payment by Mackenzie’s administration, and although the county eventually paid them, they certainly raised the eyebrows of Pyeatt and then-Chief Administrative Officer John Blacklock.

In addition, one of the deputies billed the county for $13 worth of Sierra Nevada beer during the trip, which he wasn’t reimbursed for.

Reniff also pointed to inconsistencies in Mackenzie’s hiring of his upper management, claiming that he’s padding the department with his political loyalists.

Records show that Capt. Nick Limbaugh, who announced his retirement last summer, was re-hired to perform “special administrative duties” in November. Since then, payroll records show that he’s earned $19,000, but finding out exactly what his job entails is more difficult.

Reniff, who is a sheriff’s sergeant and former assistant sheriff under Mick Grey, also pointed out that Ron Chaplain, a part-timer who runs the department’s aviation unit (which is charged mainly with finding hidden marijuana gardens from the air), is working for the department only during marijuana’s off-peak growing cycle, when it’s hardest to detect from the air.

Marijuana plants mature—and are most visible from the air—in the late summer and fall, Reniff said.

“[Chaplain’s] not even working most when you can see the plants the best,” Reniff said. “So what’s he doing? … That’s what I’d like to know.”

Mackenzie responded to the complaints by pointing out that Limbaugh asked to come back to the department right after announcing his retirement because the county was considering beefing up retirement benefits, and he wanted to retire after they were adopted to take advantage of them. Limbaugh, Mackenzie said, has a legitimate job title, as “capital improvements coordinator.”

"It wouldn’t have made sense to put him in a more permanent position, given that he’s only going to be here for a few months," Mackenzie said. Limbaugh, along with Jail Commander Jim Nylander, will retire in April, Mackenzie said.