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Months after announcing it was exploring the possibility of using drones, the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department quietly launched a program to use the unmanned aircrafts to aid operations.

VOSD contributor Jared Whitlock writes that the program began in September without any of the public input, or oversight by the County Board of Supervisors that the local chapter of the ACLU had advised the agency to seek back in February.

The ACLU had recommended the agency seek public input, because launching a program without it would negatively affect the public’s trust in the department.

The department said it took privacy into account when it crafted its policy.

“This is going to make it safer for deputies, and it’s going to make it safer for the public, too. This is not an Orwellian tool,” said Lt. Jason Vickery.

The department serves the unincorporated parts of the county, as well as North County cities including Del Mar, Encinitas, Solana Beach, Vista and San Marcos. Officials from Carlsbad and Oceanside confirmed that agencies in their cities were also considering drones.

Lawsuit Alleges NCTD Has Its Own Camera Issues

A lawsuit filed against North County Transit District alleges that officers used security cameras to look at women and read people’s text messages, the Union-Tribune reports.

Noel Buckhanon, a female code enforcement officer with NCTD, also alleges in the suit that she faced discrimination and retaliation, and that NCTD failed to protect her from harm, according to the Union-Tribune.

“The lawsuit alleges a male-dominated workplace in which Buckhanon’s colleagues were frequently focused on sex instead of security, using surveillance cameras for seeking out female passengers with large breasts and refusing to help women they did not consider “cute,” reporter Morgan Cook writes.

Encinitas Councilman Tony Kranz, who sits on NCTD’s board of directors, said that while the allegations are unproven, any responsibility for taking action to protect passengers falls to Executive Director Matthew Tucker.

Tucker was recently given a $10,000 raise by the board, in part because the agency received the Gold Standard Award from the Transportation Security Administration, for implementing federal safety measures crafted in response to Sept. 11.

Duncan Hunter Takes Out Loan, Slams the U-T

Rep. Duncan Hunter, whose district includes North County from Fallbrook to Ramona, is under fire for a loan he secured to cover $49,000 in questionable expenses from his campaign fund.

The Union-Tribune reports the loan was arranged by a licensed broker, an acquaintance of Hunter’s father who was convicted of second-degree murder in the 1970s. The loan totaled $57,281, and was secured with equity on Hunter’s Alpine home, according to the Union-Tribune.

We learned of Hunter’s questionable spending earlier this year, when he attributed a $1,302 personal expense to his teenage son, who used a credit card to purchase an online game, which he said accrued several unauthorized charges. The Federal Elections Commission ultimately found $48,650 in reimbursements for personal expenditures, which included gas, groceries, flights and hotel stays.

A left-leaning government watchdog, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, petitioned the Office of Congressional Ethics to review Hunter’s spending to see whether he violated federal law and the House of Representative’s own rules.

In response, Hunter went after the Union-Tribune, saying its reporting was “in clear support of the liberal agenda,” and that the paper is engaging in a “crusade” against him.

Also in the News

 While most cities elect a few council members, Encinitas swore in its entire City Council. The only safe seat belonged to Catherine Blakespear, who was elected mayor in November, which now leaves her Council seat vacant. The Council opted to appoint a member in January. (The Coast News, Union-Tribune)

 A years-long battle to get a liquor license for a private club in Leucadia ended with the club getting the license after a Council stalemate. The stalemate was the consequence of the vacant seat, and one of the Council’s newly elected members had to recuse herself because she voted on the issue as a planning commissioner.

 Del Mar passed a resolution opposing any religious registry, in response to President-elect Donald Trump’s statements on the campaign trail. (Union-Tribune)

 North County real estate prices stayed strong through November. (Village News)

Ruarri Serpa

Ruarri Serpa is a freelance writer in Oceanside. Email him at ruarris@gmail.com and find him on Twitter at @RuarriS.

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