By Larry Judkins
Glenn County Observer
On Monday, Sept. 12, the Glenn County Sheriff’s Office issued a press release stating that one of its employees had been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of an investigation.
The short release says in its entirety: “The Glenn County Sheriff’s Office became aware of an allegation of criminal misconduct involving one of our employees. The involved employee has been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of a criminal and administrative investigation. The Glenn County Sheriff’s Office is not able to make any public comments regarding the identity of the employee involved or the nature of the allegations of misconduct.
“The men and women of the Glenn County Sheriff’s Office are dedicated to protecting the citizens and communities, which we serve. We remain steadfast in our commitment to public service and do not condone any nature of misconduct. The Glenn County Sheriff’s Office will release any information allowable by law once the investigations are complete.
“For general information regarding the Glenn County Sheriff’s Office please visit our website: http://www.countyofglenn.net/sheriff or follow us on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/glenncountysheriff.”
Obviously, the release is so vague that it does not give so much as a hint as to who the GCSO employee is, what his or her position in the sheriff’s office is (patrol deputy, correctional officer, administrative worker, etc.), what the alleged criminal misconduct was, or when it allegedly occurred.
Given that this is an active investigation, both criminally and administratively, and that in California, employees have certain legal protections regarding the release of their employment histories and other information, this is to be expected.
Nevertheless, this did not prevent rumors from flying on social media as to the identity of the employee. One person, a GCSO deputy, was mentioned repeatedly, with at least one former Glenn County law enforcement officer expressing surprise that this person was hired in the first place.
That remark was made just a day after the GCSO press release was issued. Then, on Friday, Sept. 16, Alan Marsden of Action News Now (the local news association consisting of KHSL Channel 12, KNVN Channel 24, and the CW’s Chico-Redding Channel 10) reported on a lawsuit filed against the City of Oroville by Oroville Police Sergeant Michael Sears.
The complaint filed on behalf of Sears by Chico attorney Larry L. Baumbach alleges a number of acts of wrongdoing committed by a former Oroville police officer. It also alleges that this same officer, now a GCSO deputy, was recently placed on leave for criminal wrongdoing in Glenn County.
In one case, the complaint alleges that on or before July 5, 2021, former Oroville Police Sergeant John Sanzone stole $1,300 from a person suffering from mental illness. A few paragraphs later in the complaint (paragraph 42), it alleges:
“In September of 2022, while employed at the Glenn County Sheriff’s Office, John Sanzone was placed on administrative leave after yet another citizen reported Sanzone had stolen money from him during an arrest, but this time it occurred in Glenn County.”
Sanzone joined the GCSO in December of 2021. According to Sears’ complaint, prior to this time, while Sanzone was an Oroville police officer:
“In [an] October 2018 grievance, OFFICER SEARS reported that Officer John Sanzone left critical rape evidence in an unsecured area of the PD (next to Sgt. Deal’s desk) where convicted felons had access (the Department used felons to clean the facilities at that time). Additionally, Officer Sanzone wrote in his report that he had ‘booked’ the evidence the same day he collected it, which was false” (paragraph 9, point 2).
“In that same October 2018 grievance, OFFICER SEARS reported John Sanzone leaving meth, a broken meth pipe, and other evidence in his patrol vehicle (violation of policy). OFFICER SEARS took photos and let administration know the day that this was discovered” (paragraph 9, point 3).
“On February 12, 2020, [now-SERGEANT] SEARS filed a formal complaint against John Sanzone for making false allegations, disparaging remarks, and untrue rumors about SEARS. Sanzone spread these false rumors to several members of the Department, which negatively affected SEARS’ professional and personal reputation…” (paragraph 17).
“On February 29, 2020, SERGEANT SEARS sent an email to Lt. Zarate documenting his concerns about John Sanzone stealing City funds, by way of fraudulent timecard certifications. Specifically, that on February 4, 2020 Sanzone left work early but lied on his timecard about how long he worked (lied by reporting he worked 6 hours more than he did). Multiple officers corroborated this and also found multiple additional days where John Sanzone put hours on his timecard that he did not work. Specifically, Officer Breck Wright confirmed this with the Finance Dept., and brought this to the administration’s attention” (paragraph 18).
“Additionally, SERGEANT SEARS’ February 29, 2020 email also detailed Sanzone requesting subordinate officers still in training (and under Sanzone’s supervision) to lie for him – and tell his girlfriend that he was staying the night at an officer’s house, when Sanzone was not in fact at the officer’s house. SEARS’ concern about this was that Sanzone was enlisting young subordinate officers to lie” (paragraph 19).
“On February 21, 2021, SEARS emailed Sgt. Sanzone, Lt. Zarate, and Chief Deal because he had learned, yet again, that John Sanzone was spreading false rumors and allegations against SEARS to other members of the Department that were impairing SEARS’ ability to do his job. Just three days after sending this email, on February 24, 2021, SEARS received a Notice of Internal Affairs (IA) investigation against him for purportedly creating a ‘hostile work environment’ for Sgt. John Sanzone as a result of SEARS reporting Sanzone’s unethical and criminal behavior” (paragraph 33).
“… during the period of December 2020 to March of 2021, Officer Breck Wright found that Sanzone had failed to respond to approximately 80 calls, including domestic violence, suicidal subjects, missing juveniles, vandalism, trespassing, animal abuse, prostitution, and drug overdoses. One specific incident occurred on March 6, 2021, when citizens called 911 reporting that an elderly handicapped woman, who was unable to walk or access food, needed emergency law enforcement assistance. Sgt. John Sanzone failed to respond to that call. Instead, SERGEANT SEARS saw that Sanzone had not responded to the call during his shift, so SERGEANT SEARS responded when he got on duty, and found the woman sitting in her own urine and fecal matter, unable to move or access help. The treating doctor said the woman was lucky to be brought in when she was, because she was on the verge of requiring a leg amputation, or worse due to her condition…” (paragraph 37).
As already mentioned above, “On July 5, 2021, SERGEANT SEARS was on duty when a citizen, who suffered with mental illness, came in to the police department to report that Sergeant Sanzone had stolen $1300 from the citizen during a recent arrest. The citizen said he had come in to report this theft multiple times, and he was told by one sergeant that the citizen could not make that type of complaint and was told to leave. SERGEANT SEARS looked up the police log history and saw that the ‘sergeant’ who told the citizen he could not make such a complaint was John Sanzone himself. On July 8, 2021 and again on July 9, 2021, the citizen came in to again report the theft of his money by John Sanzone…” (paragraph 39).
It must be emphasized that these allegations against Sanzone are just that: allegations. Sanzone has not been convicted of anything.
In fact, so far as The Observer is aware, he hasn’t even been charged with any wrongdoing, not in Butte County and not in Glenn County. Here in Glenn County, he is apparently being investigated, but that is all.
Remember: Everyone accused of criminal wrongdoing is considered innocent until proven otherwise in a court of law.
This includes John Sanzone.