Our View: Brian Jagger deserves his due process

Our View
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News that Brian Jagger was arrested for allegedly embezzling more than $15,000 in campaign contributions from District Attorney-elect Scott Owens’ campaign came as a shock to many. Jagger, a top appointed aide and longtime personal friend of Supervisor Kirk Uhler, has not released any statement to the media regarding the circumstances surrounding the alleged theft or his subsequent arrest. If Jagger or his lawyer does want to release a statement specifically on the allegations of this case, space will be provided in our news and opinion pages. Tom Miller, Placer County CEO, revealed that Jagger’s contract expires Dec. 31. Jagger is on paid leave until then and would be given two weeks’ severance pay even if he were fired. So there doesn’t seem to be an advantage to taxpayers either way. Considering the circumstances, the county should not renew Jagger’s contract with an ongoing criminal case against him. Taxpayers in this county should have some faith that Owens thought carefully before bringing the theft allegations to the Sheriff’s Office and had what he considered indisputable evidence that a crime had been committed and that Jagger, indeed, perpetrated that crime. Nonetheless, Jagger deserves due process and is by law presumed innocent until proven guilty. With the budget challenges, the sad state of the economy and drop in housing values and property tax revenues, Placer County supervisors do not need any more distractions. Supervisor Uhler has been embroiled in controversy since he took office. Residents, both Republican and Democrat, have questioned his relationship to a solar power company that was given what some call a sweetheart deal to install a solar panel array on county property. The Save Granite Bay citizens group raised a ruckus and threatened recall over Uhler’s actions to re-write the Granite Bay Community Plan. That group has now agreed to work with Uhler and truthfully, recall efforts are difficult, costly and time-consuming. Many have also questioned how Uhler’s wife earned a well-paid Placer County job that was not advertised during a hiring freeze when other workers faced cuts and mandatory furlough days. No doubt Uhler and his supporters believe there is a conspiracy against him and a plausible explanation for each time he sticks his foot in the mud, like his recent suggestion that a youth deer hunt might be the answer for an allegedly growing deer population in Loomis/Granite Bay. Uhler should use this opportunity to hire an aide in 2011 who is the best person suited for the job, not necessarily someone from within his personal circle of friends. Placer County elected officials need to work harder to avoid the appearance of impropriety, especially during a time when the rank-and-file and ordinary residents are struggling to feed and clothe their families and pay their most basic bills. Sheriff Ed Bonner teaches a class on ethics for law enforcement personnel. He told the Auburn Rotary Club Tuesday that honesty and loyalty, though both sought-after traits, often come at odds with one another. Much more important than loyalty, is honesty, Bonner said. Rather than hire a friend who is steadfastly loyal, supervisors would be better served by hiring the most competent, professional and honest aides possible. Admittedly, Placer County politics can be a rough business. It is indeed unfortunate when the law can be manipulated for political gain, or to the detriment of one’s political enemies. Jagger deserves a fair trial and Supervisor Uhler has in no way been implicated in any way in this mess. It’s in the best interest of everyone involved, including the media, to take a wait-and-see approach before condemning anyone in these unfortunate circumstances.