Another Scandal at the Jail Special operations commander placed on leave for allegedly receiving drugs illegally obtained from the jail pharmacy

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By Royal Calkins

Alarming developments about sexual harassment at the Monterey County Sheriff’s Department are now being compounded with new reports of a commander placed on leave for allegedly receiving drugs illegally obtained for him from the jail’s stockpile.

Dustin Hedberg, head of special operations for the Sheriff’s Office, was placed on administrative leave Thursday while others in the department investigated his relationship with a woman terminated as regional director for Wellpath, the company that provides medical services for inmates in the county jail. And according to several Sheriff’s Office sources, that woman had been removed from her Wellpath position last week for allegedly pilfering drugs from the jail stockpile and providing them to the commander.

At a rank between sergeant and captain, Hedberg oversees specialized units that include the search and rescue team, SWAT and the aviation squad. He also handles security contracts for special events such as golf tournaments.

He was escorted out of his office on Thursday, a week after the regional Wellpath director, Christina Cruz Kaupp, was reported to have been terminated.

According to several Sheriff’s Office sources, including four current and recently retired officials, Hedberg underwent surgery in recent times and Kaupp provided him with pain medications bought and paid for by Monterey County for treatment of inmates, not commanders.

Hedberg said by phone Friday morning that he is not allowed to comment on his behalf. Kaupp has not responded to a message as of Thursday evening.

There has been no official word of the developments, but acting Undersheriff John Thornburg issued a department-wide memo hours after Hedberg’s departure saying that “until further notice,” special operations would be overseen by Cmdr. Ray Tongol — except for the SWAT team, which will report to Cmdr. Garrett Sanders.

Sheriff’s officials usually cannot be immediately terminated for breaching regulations and instead are generally placed on leave while their actions are investigated.

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Dustin Hedberg

Wellpath, headquartered in Nashville, Tenn., is the nation’s largest provider of medical care for jail and prison inmates, despite a remarkable number of lawsuits alleging inadequate care. Its chief executive officer, Jerry Boyle, pleaded guilty early this year to several counts of bribery that enabled the company to get contracts with two Massachusetts counties and a state hospital there.

Most contracts for jail health services are awarded through competitive bidding processes that provide plenty of room for subjectivity. Partly because of coziness cultivated by the providers, inmate health care costs account for as much as 30 percent of the overall budget at some facilities.

According to a former Monterey County sheriff’s official who was involved in administering the jail, Kaupp also enjoyed a close relationship with former jail Capt. Jim Bass, who was involved in ranking firms competing for Monterey County’s inmate care contract. Bass was succeeded by Capt. Joe Moses, currently a candidate for sheriff. Moses received endorsements from Hedberg and Kaupp, but he scrubbed their names from his website this week.

For many years, health care in the jail was handled by California Forensic Medical Group, which regularly contributed to sheriff candidates, especially incumbents. It was later acquired by Wellpath, which has contributed to the campaigns of Sheriff Steve Bernal and sponsored at least one trip to its Nashville headquarters. Wellpath contributed $4,500 to the Moses campaign.

Kaupp previously worked as nursing supervisor at the Monterey County Jail and was later promoted to Wellpath’s regional director position. She was involved with the company’s contracts with Santa Cruz County, but it is unclear what other territory she handled.

Kaupp is also a trustee of Mission Union School District in Soledad.

Hedberg’s suspension comes as the Sheriff’s Office has been struggling to address structural and reputational issues that were compounded by recent revelations about the department’s top officials tolerating sexual harassment within the ranks.

Recent media reports focused on the promotion of Thornburg, the acting undersheriff, after he failed to act on repeated complaints of serious and documented cases of sexual harassment. On Thursday, KSBW-TV reported on a series of offensive texts the previous undersheriff, John Mineau, had sent to one of his victims. Mineau was allowed to retire without apparent penalty.

Voices also learned this week that a former clerical employee in the department was awarded $100,000 in damages in 2020 after she was terminated for requesting a pregnancy leave.

This latest flareup involving Hedberg also could be a setback for Moses’s campaign for sheriff in the November election.

Colleagues describe Moses as a friend of Kaupp and a close friend of Hedberg, who helped host a campaign fund-raiser for Moses in May. Kaupp also attended the fund-raiser and was pictured on social media with her husband, Hedberg and Moses.

Before removing Hedberg and Kaupp from his list of endorsers this week, Moses was forced to remove his endorsement from Bernal after he criticized the current sheriff’s decision to promote Thornburg following Thornburg’s decision to ignore verified harassment complaints against Mineau. (Remarkably, Bernal, who has been accused of sexual harassment himself, publicly denied ever tolerating any harassment.)

Moses also has enjoyed a good relationship with Wellpath. Psychiatrist and Wellpath principal Taylor Fithian contributed $4,500 to Moses’s underdog campaign in which he is sparring against Marina Police Chief Tina Nieto for the right to replace outgoing Bernal. Four years ago, Fithian contributed $4,500 to Bernal’s reelection campaign.

"I will ensure that wrong-doing by our personnel is immediately addressed and the individuals involved are held accountable." Joe Moses

Moses said Friday that he can’t comment on the details of the allegations against Hedberg. But, he said, “I can assure you that as soon as the allegations came to light, swift action was taken to stop the behavior and a full investigation is underway. Once the investigation is concluded, appropriate disciplinary action will be taken.”

He added that, if elected sheriff, “I will ensure that wrong-doing by our personnel is immediately addressed and the individuals involved are held accountable. Preventative actions will be taken to make sure that type of behavior does not continue in the future.”

Nieto, his opponent in the Nov. 8 election, called the most recent allegations “troubling.”

“They clearly demonstrate the problems with the current culture at our county jail,” she said. “As I’ve said from the start of my campaign,  if the voters elect me as sheriff I will assemble a leadership team that models my values of integrity, fairness, transparency and honesty, not just when they join my team, but they must have demonstrated these values throughout their entire careers.”

She said she would “quickly make evaluations of any ongoing issues” at the jail if she’s elected to the position.

Bernal chose not to seek re-election after being censured by the Board of Supervisors for illegally using taxpayer money to put on a convention for a private trade organization that represents sheriff’s from throughout California.

Stay tuned.

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Royal Calkins

About Royal Calkins

Contributing writer Royal Calkins has worked for newspapers in Santa Cruz, Monterey and Fresno. For the past couple of years, he has produced a local news and commentary blog, the Monterey Bay Partisan. He can be reached at calkinsroyal@gmail.com.

7 thoughts on “Another Scandal at the Jail Special operations commander placed on leave for allegedly receiving drugs illegally obtained from the jail pharmacy

  1. They spent so much money & time renovating, adding-on to, and “improving” that jail….
    When are people going to realize that maybe the jail is NOT the problem… It’s just a building.
    Every single problem and crisis that, that jail and sheriff’s office has,does and will experience, could be prevented & solved by simply firing the people within that building.
    Every single one of them would be easily and quickly replaced by someone who will do the job better… How could they not? And with the minimal effort!

    1. Ms. Haggarty,
      You have no idea what type of work We do inside the county jail. You will not last a hour doing what We do and dealing with the people that comes thru the jail. The deputies carry a heavy vest all day , on their feet most of the time , run when they had to , get yelled at, get spit on, get punched, asked to work long hours. The physical , emotional and mental demands of working in the county jail is tremendous that if You ( referring to Ms. Haggarty) work there, You will end up taking an anti depressant, anti psychotic and anti anxiety all at the same time. All hard work so You and other Monterey county residents can sit on their couch and be safe .
      There is no easy work inside the jail, Every single person that works inside that jail deserves a big pat on their backs. Kaupp and Hedberg are just a speck in the sky, they do not represent the totality and integrity of the county jail .

      1. Unfortunately I’ve had to go to that dilapidated jail you speak of. Solely due to bad policing and nothing has changed over the years. What ever happened to innocent until proven guilty? The punishment is losing freedom and not being treated in humanely is it not? To be stuck in an all concrete cell that’s 60 degrees with fifteen people when it fits four is outrageous. Then it takes well over fourteens hours just to be booked and sit longer to be bailed out and pay a ton of money just to have the charges dropped cause you are innocent. I get there are a lot of bad people that come and go but you’d be amazed what treating people with respect and humanely can do. That jail should have been torn down years ago. Other areas have an open room with TVs and enough staff to get it done. That’s always the excuse is they’re busy. So I have to sit all day freezing cold on concrete with fifteen stinky people and watch the sheriffs walking around and conversations for hours. Then you’ll add some super violent skitzo to the room and have him victimize most the others knowing how he was when arrested. You guys don’t care and treat everyone like they’re the scum of the earth and wonder why they want to hurt you after sitting there for 24 hours. The law enforcement these days have a major problem and maybe some stems from most are ex military but the fact that they act like it’s war on citizens and go out of their way to try to make the most arrests and charge things knowing will be dropped because they don’t like you and put you in jail cause they can and there are no repercussions to anything they do. I had an officer throw a bunch of charges that all got dropped and cause he knew I had guns taunted me when handcuffing me that he was taking them. Then cause I was the only person wjth access and a key he threatened my fiancé that if she didn’t say she would let him in and that she had the right out child was gonna be taken by cps. Sadly we’ve given too much power and now law enforcement does all they can to get and keep more. The whole purpose of the second Amendment was to be able to form militias and fight back against a tyrannical government of ours and to protect ourselves as well but now that right is being taken more and more daily. They want unarmed peasants with pitchforks only. Sorry for getting off topic.

  2. Don’t wish anyone ill will, but sometimes people have what’s coming to them. Thinking they are above the law. Hedberg had it coming. Hedberg and Kaupp what a disgrace and embarrassment you are. Caught in bed together, now you have to pay the price. Corruption at it’s finest.

  3. Due to Sheriff Bernal’s continuous mismanagement of the Sheriff’s Office, and the on-going scandals of corruption and unethical/illegal behavior by his upper management, there needs to be an investigation into the way jail contracts have been awarded by the Sheriff’s Office to outside vendors. Specifically the Healthcare for inmates, inmate food services and commissary, and inmate telephone contracts. It’s a known fact all of the existing vendors have made financial donations to Bernal’s and Moses’ campaigns. Think about it. Every week there is a new scandal in the news. It’s obvious these administrators have been busy with other things instead of doing their jobs. Plus, it’s obvious Bernal and his loyal lieutenants don’t believe in following written policy in regards to reporting & investigating sexual harassment complaints. What makes us think that they are following the proper procedures when awarding the above mentioned contracts. The public should be concerned about this. I hope the Board of Supervisors are paying attention and they do their due diligence in conducting an audit and review of ALL contracts awarded during Bernal’s two terms in office. The jail’s Inmate Welfare Fund also needs to be audited to ensure those funds have been properly spent.

  4. There is so much corruption starting at the top. From judges to district attorney’s to cops. I have filed complaints after complaints. My husband walked in to that jail, and came out in a wheel chair. I used to think the same as most. Many think the sheriff’s are good the inmates are the bad ones. Until you are involved with the justice system, you find out the real truth. They twist and bend the story to benefit themselves. Even if one is innocent the d.a. wants a win. So she intimidates and threatens the inmate into taking a plea. She tells them if they go to trial and are found guilty on one charge they will get life in prison. D.A’s are not supposed to threaten. If that’s not a threat I don’t know what is. We as tax payers keep supporting this system that costs us millions and millions of dollars. Most of them will be deported. So deport them and let thier country support them.

  5. I have a pretty good idea of what it’s like for deputies who work at the county jail, I was an inmate there for 70 days awhile back. If you want to see some world class arrogant jerks..go no further than the Monterey County Jail. Jimmy Marquez, you greatly exaggerated the trials and tribulations of the deputies that work there. If it’s so bad, why don’t they quit? My experience was one in which I watched the jailers constantly bragging about how much money they make. Or watching them lord over inmates. How about when they play rap music with the volume turned up high on the intercom at 2am? Or if it’s not rap, they play country music turned up high. In 70 days I never once saw a deputy disrespected by an inmate. Even the nurses that issue medications to the inmates are total jerks. Without fail. They make it clear they don’t want to be there doing their job. Again..if it’s all that bad, then quit. It’s that simple. It’s time for a complete overhaul at MCSO. The scandals are piling up one after the other. The entire leadership at MCSO is under fire for wrongdoing. Starting with Sheriff Bernal.
    There’s a reason he’s not running for reelection. He has been censured by the Board of Supervisors and is currently under investigation himself for financial improprieties. His undersheriff, John Mineau was allowed to resign rather than be fired for sending incredibly vulgar texts to two female deputies. Google his name and read them for yourself. Now newly appointed undersheriff John Thornburg is under investigation for failing to act in response to the allegations of sexual harassment by the two female deputies. Now we have deputy Dustin Hedberg, head of Special Operations for the sheriff’s office, caught stealing prescription pain pills from the county’s stockpile of medications paid for by taxpayers for the use of inmates, not for their jailers. The drugs were supplied to him by Christina Cruz Kaupp, who is employed by the private company Wellpath that is under contract with the county to provide medical services in the jail. She has also been relieved of her duties. So now you have Sheriff’s Cmdr Joe Moses, whose job it is to oversee the operation of the county jail, running for sheriff in the upcoming election. Moses is currently engaging in damage control, trying to put some distance between himself and the Good Ol’ Boys mentioned above. As if all this were not enough, another deputy, Brian Hoskins, a veteran deputy with 20 years on the job, was escorted off the premises of the Monterey County Jail Oct 13 and told to stay away, even as an investigation of unknown origins gets underway. The word is mum so far regarding his dismissal, but one can only wonder what or who is next.

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