Sheriff involved in Vegas brothel sting 

With a pained face and shaky voice, San Mateo County Sheriff Greg Munks admitted Tuesday to being involved with a sweeping brothel bust in Las Vegas during the the weekend.

Munks and Undersheriff Carlos Bolanos were detained and questioned Saturday night by Las Vegas police in Operation Doll-house, a raid on more than a handful of sex houses located about two miles west of the Las Vegas strip, according to Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department Officer Bill Cassell.

The two men were not arrested or charged as a result of the raid, Cassell said. In fact, none of the brothel’s alleged customers were arrested or charged because the target of the raids were the operators, managers and prostitutes, he said.

"I believed I was going to a legitimate business," Munks said in a statement delivered to the press on Tuesday in which he declined to take questions or say what type of business he thought he was going into.

Munks said he and Bolanos — who was outside when the authorities arrived — did notbreak any laws and cooperated fully with Las Vegas police.

"I want to apologize to my family, the Sheriff’s Office and its fine men and women, and to the people of San Mateo County for my lack of judgment and the undue attention and embarrassment this incident has caused," Munks said.

Munks had been participating in a law enforcement relay run from Baker to Las Vegas over the weekend and was looking for a massage because he was sore from running, Bolanos told a CBS television reporter in Las Vegas after the bust.

The raids took place at eight houses and apartments, Cassell said. None of the homes or apartments advertised massages out front to his knowledge, Cassell said.

Six individuals and 25 prostitutes were taken into custody on various prostitution-related charges in the raids, which were conducted along with the Federal Bureau of Investigations after a two-year long investigation, Cassell said. Approximately 3,500 Ecstacy drug tablets and $20,000 in cash also were seized, Las Vegas police said.

Munks, who was sworn in as sheriff Jan. 8, 2007, after an uncontested election in November and widely supported by local politicians, makes $188,500 a year. Munks served as undersheriff under longtime Sheriff Don Horsley, who retired at the beginning of the year. He is married and has four children.

Bolanos, who knew Munks from their early years working together for the Palo Alto police department, was appointed undersheriff by Munks on the same day he was sworn in. He is also married and makes about $154,000, according to officials.

Supervisor Jerry Hill said he didn’t know any details, but called such behavior, if true, out of character for both men. "He has the highest integrity and I have the highest confidence in Sheriff Munks, and the undersheriff as well," said Hill, who considers Munks a social friend.

Attorney: Officials aren’t empowered to discipline lawman

When it comes to investigating the county’s sheriff, the county manager and supervisors are short on authority, according to the Assistant County Counsel Michael Murphy.

Under the law, neither County Manager John Maltbie nor the county Board of Supervisors have the power to fire or discipline the sheriff, Murphy said. "He’s elected and accountable only to the electorate," Murphy said.

Another question altogether is whether an investigation is even warranted in this case, since Sheriff Greg Munks and Undersheriff Carlos Bolanos weren’t charged by Las Vegas police with a crime, Supervisor Jerry Hill said Tuesday.

"It doesn’t appear that any law was broken," said Hill, admitting there was still more to learn.

Maltbie didn’t return a call for comment Tuesday on whether such an investigation would be launched.

Normally, an internal investigation into allegations of "conduct unbecoming" a sheriff’s officer would have to be signed off on by Munks himself, raising questions of a conflict, officials said. If supervisors do decide to press ahead with an independent investigation, it should be handed to an outside agency, such as the San Mateo County District Attorney’s Office, Hill said. "I don’t think you could have the sheriff investigating himself."

Launching an investigation into an elected official’s behavior has a recent precedent in the county. Coroner Robert Foucrault and his office were investigated last year after an anonymous complaint was filed in 2005 alleging repeated instances of inappropriate conduct.

The Board of Supervisors and Maltbie have requested regular reports on steps Foucrault is taking to ensure there are no recurrences.

ecarpenter@examiner.com

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