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Boating agency looking into El Dorado County Sheriff's office

By: Raheem Hosseini Telegraph Correspondent
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The California Department of Boating and Waterways is evaluating a complaint against the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office. The state department provides the sheriff’s office with an annual grant for an intervention program on the county’s lakes and waterways, according to county records. A sheriff’s office boating safety unit conducts marine enforcement and rescue activities, as well as one of the only whitewater patrols in the nation, tasked with covering a 20-mile stretch of the South Fork American River. The nature of the complaint was unclear at press time. “We received a complaint and we are evaluating it at this time,” said boating and waterways department spokeswoman Gloria Sandoval. Sandoval couldn’t offer a timeline for when the evaluation would be complete. “We don’t know if the allegations are true … and I don’t want to speculate at all,” she said. PRpond Newswire, a blog covering El Dorado County, cited unconfirmed sources in saying the state was possibly looking into grant funds improperly spent on equipment rather than training, as intended. The sheriff’s department received $319,546 through the state department’s Boating Safety and Enforcement Financial Aid Program, which provides money to local governmental agencies whose waterways have high usage by transient boaters and an insufficient tax base to fully support boating safety and enforcement activities. Those activities involve search and rescue operations, enforcing state and local boating laws and regulations, inspecting vessels, and supervising organized boating activities and events. Thirty-five other county sheriff’s offices participate in the voluntary program, as does the South Lake Tahoe Police Department. In June, the board of supervisors approved a sheriff’s office request to spend a $30,000 equipment grant from the state on two personal watercraft for its boating safety unit. In a March 1 letter, Corrina Dugger, associate boating administrator of the state department’s enforcement unit, informed sheriff’s Sgt. Bernie Morton of the grant award and included contract documents to sign. “Please pay special attention to the specific procurement standards regarding advertising by your department, adequate purchase descriptions, sealed bids, and public openings,” Dugger wrote. “You will be asked to provide, with your written request for reimbursement, a signed certification that you complied with approved procurement procedures.” Sheriff Fred Kollar said he was unaware of any complaint against the department’s boat patrol and couldn’t comment without knowing the specific allegations. “I know B+W (Boating and Waterways) has strict reporting requirements and we have a good reputation with them as to accountability,” he added via e-mail.