A race between Kern County Sheriff's Office (KCSO) colleagues is officially underway.
"Of course it’s a little awkward," Current Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood said.
Youngblood is running for re-election and is hoping to continue his legacy at his current job, but one chief deputy believes there are certain areas Youngblood has glanced over during his time in the Sherriff’s Office."Due to the lack of support from the current Sheriff employees in all classifications are leaving at record numbers," Chief Deputy Justin Fleeman said.
Youngblood said the element of disconsolate morale at KCSO is not because of his leadership but rather because, deputies haven't had a pay raise in almost eight years according Youngblood. "We are so far behind the eight ball on hiring that we are now trying to play catch up, they've been forced to work overtime those are all valid complaints and after eight years, of course you're not going to be happy."
Retired deputies and Fleeman supporters said Youngblood has been in the rear view when it comes to leading his deputies, affecting the way some of the officers view him. "I can ask people when I'm traveling the communities and they say I have never seen him and definitely the deputies have not," Retired senior Deputy Sheriff Daures Stephens said.
Youngblood said he is working on making himself more readily available, "I'm in agreement that we can do this better, that we can touch our deputies and be in contact with them better and we are going to work on that."
Fleeman supporters cautioned Fleeman about running because of quote, “a lot of retaliation," that could hurt Fleeman’s career under current Sheriff Youngblood but Youngblood knocked down that allegation,
"I ran for Sheriff in 2006 or 2007 against the incumbent, so how can I be upset when someone decides to run against me, it's the American way."
Those in favor of change said Youngblood is not transparent enough when it comes to internal issues the public may have a right to know about. While Youngblood said he's just doing what his job allows him to do and that won't change, "We're as transparent as the law allows us to be."
During our interview with Sheriff Youngblood, we asked about allegations against Fleeman from a current KCSO employee, Youngblood told us that the complaint is quote, “an outside investigation.”