This story was originally published Dec. 21 in the Daily Post. On Jan. 7, Corpus was sworn into office.
By Emily Mibach
Daily Post Staff Writer
Incoming San Mateo County Sheriff Christina Corpus has set up a “transition team” as she prepares to become the county’s sheriff next month – a move that the county manager noted is “pretty much unheard of.” At least $130,000 has been allocated for the team, according to county records obtained by the Post.
Corpus ran on a platform of being prepared to take over from current Sheriff Carlos Bolanos. When previously asked about the transition team, Corpus responded by saying “transition teams are commonly used to ensure an incoming administration can hit the ground running on day one. From keeping our community safe to enhancing trust and transparency, we have a lot of work to do.”
Follow-up questions sent via email were not returned. She declined to do a phone interview.
In an email to County Manager Mike Callagy in August, Corpus makes her case for having a four-member team, pointing out that there has not been a “true transition in over 30 years.” Corpus is taking over from Bolanos, who was initially appointed by the Board of Supervisors to his position in July 2016 after then-Sheriff Greg Munk abruptly retired citing health issues. Bolanos’ appointment process was so controversial that Congresswomen Jackie Speier and Anna Eshoo wrote to the board urging the supervisors to pump the brakes on the appointment.
Bolanos was Munks’ undersheriff. Munks was undersheriff for Don Horsley, who is now a county supervisor but was sheriff from 1993-2007.
Callagy responded that he had approved Corpus bringing on three people four months in advance, “which is pretty much unheard of.” Callagy pointed out that such a team has not been done for any of the county supervisors. “But I am committed to your success and therefore I’ve allowed it for the three-member team,” he wrote. Callagy also suggested that Corpus use some vacation time to prep for her transition.
Corpus responded that “taking time off at this juncture is not possible,” as there are vacancies in the department and she did not want to leave Millbrae “without adequate coverage.” Gascon’s spokesman part of the team
There are at least three people actively working on the team, according to documents the Post received:
• realtor Victor Aenlle;
• retired sheriff’s captain Paul Kunkel;
• Max Szabo.
For six years, Szabo was George Gascon’s spokesman while Gascon was District Attorney in San Francisco. Kunkel was Corpus’ predecessor as chief of police in Millbrae. Aenlle was on Corpus’ campaign and attended numerous events with her, including the Post’s interview with Corpus last December. All three men have submitted reimbursement requests with the county and have been actively working with Corpus. Aenlle and Szabo’s contracts are for a total of $30,000 and Kunkel’s contract is for a total of $35,000.
The County Attorney’s office also provided a contract for retired Assistant Sheriff Jeff Kearnan, but the Post received no further information that he was involved with the transition team.
Aenlle’s contract says he is tasked with advising on budget development, grants, contracts and monitoring the remodeling of the Old Maguire Jail into administrative space.
Kunkel’s contract says he is in charge of drafting a budget for the jail, reviewing contracts and making recommendations on them, and helping to find Corpus’ executive team.
Szabo’s contract largely tasks him with overseeing Corpus’ communications policies, including speech writing, dealing with the press, and assisting with crafting new policies, among other duties.
The three, along with Corpus, attended a conference hosted by the International Association of Chiefs of Police in Dallas, Texas for a week in August. The attendee’s airfare, meals, and hotel were paid for by the county.
Outgoing Sheriff Carlos Bolanos said neither he nor Munks had transition teams. However, both were seen as anointed successors at the time. Bolanos said he’s assigned the undersheriff to be her liaison. Bolanos said his office has provided information to Corpus’ team, but was not sure about recent interactions with the incoming sheriff or her team.
Santa Clara County Sheriff Bob Jonsen, who is replacing longtime sheriff Laurie Smith, said he does not have a transition team.