On Tuesday, Jan. 8 the Mono County Board of Supervisors approved an employment contract with Robert Weber. Over the holidays, Weber had been appointed to the position of Undersheriff by new Sheriff-Coroner Ralph Obenberger.
Following that meeting, The Sheet asked Obenberger about his first few weeks as Sheriff and the setup and outlook for the department under his command.
Sheet: Why did you choose to appoint from within for Undersheriff and not fly the job outside of the department? (Weber served as Lieutenant prior to his new appointment)
Sheriff Obenberger: My appointment of Robert Weber as my Undersheriff was an easy one, and also what I believe to be, a smart choice for me.
The relationship between the Sheriff and his second in command has to be one of total confidence and trust. I have worked with Robert for over twelve years, starting as resident deputy partners in June Lake. I have seen Robert grow in his knowledge in the law enforcement field over the years. He demonstrates integrity in his work, and I have watched his detailed interaction with our employees and other agencies and departments in which the Sheriff’s Office interacts with on a daily basis.
The role of the Undersheriff is basically to run or operate the Sheriff’s Office on a daily basis. Robert is a task minded individual that wants to get things done, correctly and in a timely manner. I know Robert will put in the time necessary and then some to make sure things get done the right way.
Knowing that Robert has tremendous knowledge of our Office and its daily intricacies, I felt that promoting Robert to the position of Undersheriff would and has allowed a smooth transition.
Sheet: Would you agree that the Sheriff is the political figure of the department while the Undersheriff is the operations manager?
Sheriff: I do agree that the Sheriff is the political figure of the Office, and that the Undersheriff is the person who basically ‘runs’ the operation. With that said, the Undersheriff has to communicate on a daily basis to the Sheriff what is happening in any and all realms of the operation. Robert and I talk on a daily basis seven days a week and we have done this since we were both Lieutenants, and continued to do so after I moved in the position of Undersheriff back in 2007.
Sheet: Does a Sheriff in Mono County choose his Undersheriff largely based upon whether that Undersheriff will follow and promote the Sheriff’s policies?
Sheriff: I chose my Undersheriff based on my belief that the person I chose, Robert Weber, will perform at a very high work ethic each and every day. Robert will do what is right, display integrity, and show commitment to both the Sheriff’s Office and citizens of Mono County alike. The Undersheriff needs to honor the badge that is on their uniform and be proud to work for the Mono County Sheriff’s Office. I also expect these attributes from all my employees. The Undersheriff is expected to follow and promote the policies set forth by the Sheriff, but he is also expected to contribute his ideas on the policies themselves.
Sheet: Does the appointment make Weber vulnerable now that he is an at-will employee?
Sheriff: The Undersheriff is an ‘at-will’ employee, but he still has rights guaranteed him through the Peace Officers Bill Of Rights (POBAR). These rights are varied so I will not try and explain them at this time. I would say the main point of concern of an ‘at-will’ employee is that their employment can be terminated without cause. POBAR basically states that a peace officer can be terminated but there has to be cause for that termination. You will have to ask Robert himself if he feels ‘vulnerable’ as you state it in your question.
Sheet: Why was there a need to appoint Weber prior to the Board’s approval?
Sheriff: I felt that the quicker I filled the position of Undersheriff the smoother the transition would be. Robert and I had discussed his future contract relating to salary, benefits, etc. just as other ‘at-will’ employees have previously received, including me. Robert told me that he understood what the basic contract would contain and that he was comfortable knowing what he would more than likely receive in that contract. As Robert stated to me it’s not all about take home pay, but what he can do for the Sheriff’s Office. I am more than proud of Robert and anyone that can have an attitude such as his towards employment.
Sheet: Do you think there is a stigma in Mono County that the Sheriff’s Department is a “good old boys” club due to the corrupt hiring procedures that happened back in the 1990s? If yes, how will you combat that stigma? If no, why not?
Sheriff: I personally do not see nor believe that type of mentality is in our current administration, supervisors or employees. I feel that employees that have been promoted to the supervisor ranks in the recent past have earned that promotion through knowledge; gone through an interview process via an outside agency interview panel (if there were multiple candidates); and that they would have had an outstanding attitude to want to learn more and take on the greater responsibilities of the position they were applying for. I was not an employee for the Mono County Sheriff’s Office in the 1990’s so I cannot comment on what happened prior to my tenure as an employee of this Office.
Sheet: Please list who is in what position now in the Department.
Sheriff: Sheriff-Coroner: Ralph Obenberger, Undersheriff: Robert Weber, Lieutenant: Phil West III, Sergeant: Tim Minder, Sergeant: Jeff Beard, Sergeant: Seth Clark, Sergeant: Rick Hahn, Sergeant (Jail): Mike Booher, Corporal (Jail): Rob Ladd, Corporal (Jail): Shawn Minder
Sheet: Also, please clarify how many empty spots you have in the Department?
Sheriff: We have (2) deputy positions that are vacant. We have background checks being completed and will be filling these positions soon.
We have (2) deputies that are still in training and cannot work on their own.
I have (2) other deputies that are off work due to various reasons.
So as you can see, I am very shorthanded staffing wise.
Sheet: What are some of the goals you would like to accomplish while Sheriff-Coroner?
Sheriff: I am currently dealing with AB109, which is basically giving our jail facility more inmates for a longer period of time. County Jails used to only house sentenced misdemeanor criminals up to one year and inmates going through their court process. Now the Courts, with the change in sentencing laws, are sentencing their non-violent, non-serious, and non-sexual criminals to County Jails no matter how long their sentence is. This is a concern for various reasons, such as the cost of medical, food, etc., programming issues, along with the population within the facility itself. Our Office is in a working group with the courts, district attorney, probation, mental health, social services, and others to try and figure out how to serve our inmate population to the best of our ability but also maintain safety for our residents and visitors alike.
I can no longer require employees to live in a specific area of the County, and with that I want to devise a plan to ensure equal and balanced patrol coverage across the entire County.
I want to be able to recruit potential applicants for all positions and retain them for a longer period of time.
I would like to move our Office to a 24 hour service level, but until the economy turns itself around, I will not be asking for funding for this from the Board of Supervisors as it is not realistic at this time.
I want to continue to improve our Office’s interaction with all the departments and agencies we deal with.
I want to be responsive to the needs of the citizens of Mono County and run an effective and efficient Office.
(Photos: Mono County)