Sheriff Warren Rupf of Contra Costa County,
California has financed his re-election efforts with selective issuance of both "CCW" (Carry Concealed Weapons) permits and a "quasi law enforcement status" totally illegal and improper in it's own right.
To understand how this was done, one must review and analyze three separate sources of information:
1) Campaign contribution records available at the County Board of Elections;
2) "Raw data" on CCW permitholders available via Public Records Act and summarized in Appendix A of this document;
3) A "Sheriff's Posse Of Contra Costa County" newsletter from mid-2001 plus other "Posse insider" documents such as the application forms. As a "bonus", I can also prove that Rupf distributed Posse info and materials through his county offices and employees in a fashion more or less identical to
Gayle Bishop was jailed for.
Part 1: The Posse
The Contra Costa Sheriff's Mounted Posse had existed as a reserve sworn deputy unit until approximately 30 years ago. Its primary function was horse-mounted search and rescue, no doubt necessary in it's day. As the county urbanized, it's membership of citizens who had to own their own horses necessarily meant that it's members tended to be wealthy.
That in turn made it a campaign contribution goldmine for past Sheriffs.
As the members aged, at some point it was reduced in function to a parade and ceremonial unit still formally associated with the Sheriff's office, while a more modern "mechanized" Search and Rescue team took over those functions.
Several Posse members have told me that somewhere between 25 and 30 years ago, during a parade, a child blew a whistle in a horse's ear and it bolted. It failed to hurdle a parked car, and an elderly Posse member was severely injured (broken neck, per one source). The Sheriff at that time disbanded the Posse as a law enforcement unit…but it remained constituted as a political and social club dedicated to the support of the incumbent Sheriff. As you'll see, it's remaining "law enforcement status" is considerable
— and illegal as hell.
The Posse Today
As preparation for my Federal court case in 2001, I had a friend from a wealthy part of the county attempt to gain Posse-related information from the Sheriff's office. Sure enough, he was able to obtain the following two-page Posse application form from the Sheriff's office secretary:
Click to View
Contra Costa County "Posse" Application Letter
Let's add up the "police-like features" listed
on the above-linked letter from the Sheriff: badges, gold stars, an "oath of office" in a "swearing-in ceremony" at the Sheriff's COUNTY offices? (We'll get to the uniforms, ranks such as Lieutenant and more later.)
Do also note that there is a $100 fee and that
it covers the first fee of "annual dues," payable yearly, at $75. For
people who live in states where $20 will cover your CCW permit for four years,
that might seem steep — a nice income stream for the Sheriff, no doubt.
Also, did you catch the part about how
successful applicants must be "willing to contribute time, talent and treasury"?
[emphasis mine] Golly, if you'll kick in some money, maybe you can
exercise your right to self-defense without fear of getting busted and slapped
with a felony — how generous. Now let's look at the actual application that
came with the Sheriff's letter:
Click to View
Contra Costa County "Posse" Application
What the heck do members of a political club have to do with sharing "horses, boats or airplanes" with the Sheriff's office!? Note the middle of the application form page.
Also note the use of Rupf's official seal of office on this application form for something his attorneys described in court (twice) as a "private political club".
Per the letter, they may be "called upon to support the Sheriff". They're supposed to give "time, talent and treasury" to the "goals of the Sheriff" (apparently including re-election). They get "ID Cards" (not badges?),
"Gold Stars", and have a swearing in ceremony (more on those later), yet they're not law enforcement of any sort?
Oh, and a lot of 'em seem to hold CCW permits — see also Appendix
You may have noticed the reference to "gold stars" — let me quote a description of the one available in 2000 from an actual Posse member, from his Email to me:
"There was the 2000 'commemorative' badge that was full sized, what 3 inches, maybe bigger??
7 points, just like the regular uniform badge, saying: 'Sheriff, Contra Costa
County', differing from a uniform badge in that the Calif seal in the middle is gold plated, not full color enamel, center is not the seal of the county, but rather that of Calif."
The 7 points identify it to law enforcement as an actual law enforcement insignia, yet per Rupf's letter to prospective Posse, the members "are not law enforcement officers". Hint, wink, nudge...more evidence of law enforcement privileges and trappings for the Posse will become clear later when we look at their newsletter.
I decided to play rough.
The guy who got that set of Posse application materials lived in the wealthy enclave of Kensington, which is outside of any town Rupf has a "zero CCW agreement" with. I figured with that sort of upscale address, Rupf would just love him as a prospective Posse member.
So I had him call up Rupf's COUNTY offices, talk to his secretary, and get the date of the next Posse affair plus get more copies of the Posse application forms as above. (In fact, those forms above are copied from what he received). He then documented the results...for his privacy, his name has been deleted but you can contact my attorney David Beauvais who can confirm the authenticity of this two-page
document. Following are the two pages of a signed declaration for my court case:
If the Posse is a "private political club" in support of the Sheriff, then Rupf's personal secretary had no business knowing the date of their next social function, or how to route an application to the guy from Kensington.
This, ladies and gents, is called "misuse of county personnel and facilities for personal political ends". And it's exactly what former Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors member
Gayle Bishop recently lost her job over, plus spent 30 days in the pokey. Sheriff Rupf's jail, come to think. And she was busted by DA Gary Yancey, who as we've seen is Rupf's close buddy. Yancey received campaign contributions from many of the same CCW permitholders who are also Posse as gave money to Rupf.
NOTE: Former Contra Costa County
Supervisor Gayle Bishop's convictions for misuse of public funds were related to
her use of her county-paid staff and resources for her private law practice and
her unsuccessful re-election campaign. Also interesting is the fact that Blackhawk
Corp. was fined $26,000 by the Fair Political Practices Commission in
connection with contributions to Bishop — and the owner of Blackhawk is a
member of Sheriff Rupf's Posse by the name of Kenneth Behring, former owner of
the Seattle Seahawks.
So Rupf figured nobody was going to investigate him to the same degree Ms. Bishop was looked
into...'cept he forgot about one extra investigator running around loose.
But he's got another problem too — one of the Posse is very much in favor of widespread self defense, and happened to pass me something quite interesting: a Posse newsletter dated April-June 2001. All six pages of that document follow, with commentary…
Newsletter: Page 1
Page one: nothing too odd, except that PD Chief Samuels of Richmond is one of the Chiefs who has requested that Rupf not issue CCW permits in his town
— and Samuels clearly knows of the Posse's existence. Whether he knows of the extreme favoritism Posse members receive in CCW is as yet an open question.
Newsletter: Page 2
The recently deceased Joe Vrankovich was a CCW
permitholder. Rupf asks for volunteers for, among other things, the "dinners"
— Posse dinners directly benefited Rupf's campaign fund, as you'll see in the campaign finance statements in part two.
Newsletter: Page 3
When I complained about the favoritism in CCW issuance being shown to Posse members to my elected representatives, I was ignored. In the case of Senator Rainey, this was to be expected, he was Sheriff before Rupf and ran the Posse then. Shown here is my other elected rep, Assemblywoman Lynne Leach, partying with 'em.
Newsletter: Page 4
Let's see, they named a benefit event for juvenile hall inmates "Beer and Brats"?
I wonder if the kids know?
More seriously, here we have a case of a Posse member trying to pass himself off as a cop. He failed because he was drunk off his rocker, and "gilded the lily" by adding CHP insignia. Except for that, it might have worked.
Newsletter: Page 5
At age 85, Vrankovich's rank of "Lieutenant" couldn't have been as a reservist
— that's a POSSE rank. Per the 1st article, the "Marine Posse" has uniforms in which they appear in public. So the Posse has ranks, uniforms, gold stars, ID cards ("badges"),
swearing-in ceremonies, easy access to gun carry…and they're not cops? Mike Zeelen holds a CCW permit.
Newsletter: Page 6
Yo Rupf: give ME a uniform, rank, badge, gold star and legal gun carry and sure, I'll do as much "Community Policing" as you want! And apparently, all it takes is regular campaign contributions?
This is insane. Remember, Rupf keeps the Posse membership lists totally secret, not even the county has access. Yet they're some sort of "quasi cops"?
Of the Board of Directors members listed above, Challoner, Pastore, Kahane and the aforementioned (RIP) Vrankovich have (or had) CCW permits.
Now let's see how the Posse (and CCW permitholders) actually connect to Rupf's campaign finances.
Part Two: Campaign Contribution Data
Campaign Statement, Page 1:
Horizontal (for viewing online)
Vertical (for printing)
This is a typical "cover page" to each filing made with the County Elections Board. All up through the last time I checked (late 1999) looked the same, with Raynal Mayman as treasurer of the "Committee To Retain Sheriff Rupf". Even the phone numbers are probably current, except that 510 should be converted to 925.
Mayman holds a CCW permit.
Campaign Statement, Page 2:
(for viewing online)
Here we see money coming in to Rupf from Zeelen, who we know is Posse, and Vrankovich (RIP), ditto. Both on the same date, which was a Posse dinner. Also partying and contributing: DA Gary Yancey.
You're going to ask me how I know 3/31/93 was a Posse Dinner, right? See next page…
Campaign Statement, Page 3:
(for viewing online)
This is how.
The DeVincenzi family owns a local chain of gourmet delicatessens (the Genova Delis). John Sr. (RIP) and John Jr. are CCW permitholders.
Now, according to the Posse newsletter's eulogy to Vrankovich (page 5 of the Posse
newsletter), Vrankovich was one of the two co-sponsors of the long-running "Vrankovich/DeVincenzi Posse Dinners". Makes sense, as Vrankovich was an executive at a meat company and the DeVincenzis had the delis.
But after this one reference to the DeVincenzis financing a dinner back in 1993, there are NO other major contributions on this scale recorded in later campaign finance filings.
It would appear that the DeVincenzis and Vrankovich sponsored the dinners "for the Posse" as an organization, instead of recording it all as donations to Rupf as they did back in 1993.
I don't know if this violates campaign finance rules, but someone more qualified should certainly look into the possibility. A copy of this will go to the Fair Political Practices Commission.
Campaign Statement, Page 4:
(for viewing online)
More money from Zeelen and Yancey, in 1998.
Campaign Statement, Page 5:
(for viewing online)
Here's money going from Rupf's campaign OUT to the Posse. Interesting. Note the Posse's mailing address, you'll see that again…
Campaign Statement, Page 6:
(for viewing online)
Here's more Rupf campaign money going out the door. Note the address of the "Sheriff's Charities Inc."
— same as the Posse's address, previous page.
Now, a cynic might ask whether the money is being properly separated between political org (the Posse) and charitable purposes…but it probably is, there are too many otherwise reasonable people in the Posse for something that ugly to go un-noticed.
The point is, the $700 that went to the Posse by name went for political purposes, because if it had been intended for charity it would have gone to the Sheriff's own charity, instead.
In other words, it's further evidence of how deeply tied to the Sheriff's electoral politics the Posse is.
Campaign Statement, Page 7:
(for viewing online)
This is interesting — the Posse went and rented a hall specifically for a Rupf campaign fundraiser, and Rupf paid 'em back. Nothing wrong with that, but yet again it shows deep ties between Rupf's electoral politics and the Posse.
And that in turn raises harsh questions about why Rupf's secretary was able to provide the dates and times of Posse events to callers, and direct a Posse applications set to his mailbox.
Campaign Statement, Page 8:
(for viewing online)
Mayman is a permitholder, and Posse.
Mongsene is now retired; at one point in the mid-1990s he was a Lt. In the Sheriff's department who Rupf assigned the task of "initial CCW screening"…later that went to Lt. Wayne Willett and now somebody name of Varady.
Approximately 1996 a business owner who lives in Lafayette called the Sheriff's office and asked about CCW issuance. Mongsene told the guy to join the Sheriff's Posse if he wanted any chance at all.
(Sidenote on campaign finance laws: per county rules, $225 is the max donation in a non-election year. So Mayman got his wife to contribute too. As for Olney, a total of 8 or 9 different relatives and/or Olney employees all "contributed" in their names on this date
— odds are it was really all the owner's money just creatively split. Just like the DeVincenzi contribution of almost $1900 worth of chow
— they ran out of relatives to split the total among, and used three employees…who I somehow doubt cared very much about Sheriff Rupf's political career. In other words, it's easy to make up these dumb rules, but it doesn't take much creativity to bypass 'em either.)
APPENDIX A: Rupf Permitholder Database, Circa Early 2000
Version 4.0, cleaned up, page numbers added plus endnotes with some legal technicalities.
Compiled 8/21/01 by James March
Names and case file info is derived from Rupf's response to Chuck Michel's PRAR request of early 2000. Rupf withheld this data in the Fed trial of 2001, we were forced to use the older data, consisting of over 750 pages of mildly redacted (by Rupf or his staff) original CCW application/renewal file info.
Methodology: each multi-page record in the Michel response was examined and the permitholder name compared to the rosters of permitholders dated 5/24/2001.
Their information is summarized in the table linked below. Therefore, this table will be incomplete in that it doesn't cover new permit issuance between the time of the Michel response and 5/24/01. This table is also limited purely to current (as of 5/24/2001) permitholders.
Note: the "first issued" date refers to the first date I can find in the file, and in many cases the oldest forms for that person are missing or incomplete. Permits may be older than as listed. If there's no first date on the file, I refer to the 5/24/2001 PRAR data.
City of residence generally isn't listed because it's wildly inaccurate in all Rupf sources. Somebody with an address of "Martinez" for example may live many miles outside the town borders.
"Numbering" refers to the page number where that applicant's file begins.
Permit types: 12027i refers to the shall-issue system for retired Fed agents. Standard/Std is the normal type, "Judge" is obvious, and
"Reserves" mean a reserve deputy for the Contra Costa Sheriff's Office UNLESS some other department is noted.
Some pages were discarded as irrelevant; we have saved these and will make them available to defense counsel upon request. The pages set aside included shooting range qualification data, sign-off sheets showing that the applicant understands the process, and renewal applications where the renewal pages did not contain any "new information" beyond the contents of the original app and the current permit card itself. In some cases the renewal sheets were retained in the file because they were the only data available, or the renewal sheet expanded on info available in the app, or the renewal sheet showed a change in occupation (or "life circumstances") from the original application time. Examples of the types of pages set aside can be found in pages 743-747
— it is Plaintiff's firm belief that these pages are irrelevant to the charge of equal protection violations or it's defense.
Not one renewal form page ever contained revised "good cause data" from the original issuance.
Here to View Rupf Permitholder Database
(large file, wait to load)
The 12027-based permits shouldn't even be in here. That's a separate system for former law enforcement of various types
— 12027i covers former Feds. Now, I'm not ready to call 12027 an equal protection violation, because to do so, I'd have to challenge the idea that cops get armaments and carry rights beyond what "us peons" get. A purist might say that, and with some constitutional backing but that's a complexity beyond what I need to deal with.
By including 12027 cases, Rupf gains by "watering down" the percentage of "cronies" listed. Let's say there's a total of 100 Posse members with CCW (which is very conservative!). If there's 244 permits total active today, then the Posse percentage is bad, but possibly survivable. But if out of 244 total, 50 or more are 12027, then the REAL Posse percentage is higher
— 100 is a higher percentage of 190 than it is 244.
Problem: it's not at all clear that records under 12027 are public! They weren't covered under CBS vs. Block, and with their shall-issue status, equal protection is less of an issue. I'm not at all harmed if I'm denied info on them.
Last, this file is very incomplete. There were over 230 permits outstanding at the time this PRAR was answered, over a dozen of these
in the above database are expired, so there were at least 40 or so files totally missing when this was answered!!! Where the hell are the rest!? I'm going to have to carefully sort out who's missing. There's been some added since, a bit over a dozen. Kim Fang died, of course.
SEE ALSO THE "CONTRA COSTA CRONIES ROSTER" AT:
(for examples of the CCW application files mentioned)
Other Reports Exposing California's CCW
in Marin County, California: Government Employees Win 3 to 1.
Original Research, Concept and First Draft: Jim March
Edits, HTML Layout, and Co-Author: Angel Shamaya
California: ZEN AND THE ART OF CCW ABUSE
by Jim March
Other Reports by Jim March
Gun Control Politics At The Million Mom March
by Jim March and Nadja Adolf
Gun Control Inauthenticity Runs Even Deeper
by Jim March