Post on sheriff's Instagram account illustrates tension in heated Stanislaus race

Sceen snap of post on the Instagram account of Stanislaus County Sheriff Adam Christianson. About an hour after the post, access to the account was no longer available.
Sceen snap of post on the Instagram account of Stanislaus County Sheriff Adam Christianson. About an hour after the post, access to the account was no longer available.

With the latest update Friday from the Stanislaus County elections office, giving him a decisive 3,800-vote lead, Lt. Jeff Dirkse can start preparing to take over as the top executive of the Sheriff's Department.

As updated tallies were released last week in the hard-fought race, it sparked some taunting from supporters of both sides, including outgoing Sheriff Adam Christianson.

A supporter of Sgt. Juan Alanis posted a meme, showing Christianson with an astonished look on his face and framed by the words: "When you find out there is still 42,000 uncounted votes."

After Friday's updated tally, showing that Dirkse maintained a 53 percent-to-47 percent lead, a second meme was posted showing a jubilant picture of the sheriff with the wording: "When 75,000 votes are counted and Juan still loses!"

At some point, both memes were posted, one after the other, on the sheriff's Instagram account — sheriff_christianson — with a comment: "First one was pretty funny! 75,731 votes later the second meme is even better!!"

Christianson strongly supported Dirkse as his successor. In seeking the office, Alanis said he wanted to change a toxic culture in the Sheriff's Department that he said was created by Christianson's 12 years of management.

Christianson did not deny posting the memes in an email Monday. People who followed the exchange said Christianson's Instagram account was unavailable an hour after the post.

In his email to The Bee on Monday, Christianson wrote that the election is over and it's time to "refocus our efforts on much more important things like public and community safety."

Stephen Ringhoff, a retired Modesto attorney who followed the election, said Christianson's sharing of the "Juan still loses" meme was inappropriate.

“There is something called a bad winner,” Ringhoff said. "If the department is split, it only aggravates it to have a comment like that. They have to live together afterward and the division has to be healed.”

By scoring a victory over a single opponent in the June 5 primary, Dirkse gets to skip a runoff in November. He will be formally sworn in as sheriff in January, which will mark the end of the term for Christianson.

County officials quickly put to rest questions about whether Christianson will retire before that and turn the reins of the department over to Dirkse early.

In an email, Christianson said Monday his term ends Jan. 8, 2019. “I will retire on the day Sheriff-elect Dirkse is sworn into office as the 22nd Sheriff of Stanislaus County.”

Supervisor Vito Chiesa said Christianson has told him a number of times he will continue working until the end of his term in early January.

Chiesa said there may be good reason to appoint county Treasurer-Tax Collector-elect Donna Riley to that post right away, which would relieve Lauren Klein, who is pulling double duty as Auditor-Controller and the interim treasurer-tax collector.

County supervisors almost a year ago voted to appoint Klein as the interim treasurer-tax collector after Gordon Ford decided to retire 18 months before his term was to expire in January 2019.

Chiesa said there is no formal proposal yet for Riley to take over immediately as treasurer-tax collector. She ran unopposed for the position.