Chronicle: Is the search of Sheila Kuehl’s home a political stunt?

Set to be re-elected in a tight race, Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva appears to be getting desperate.

Otherwise, how to explain what looks more like a clownish and vindictive political stunt than an investigation into corruption?

On Wednesday morning, deputies knocked on the door of one of Villanueva’s top critics, County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl. They served a search warrant, as Alene Tchekmedyian of The Times reports.

Kuehl, in a photo by Genaro Molina from The Times, is shown barefoot being escorted out of her home by a deputy with a hand on Kuehl’s arm. The deputy is followed by another deputy, and both are wearing bulletproof vests.

You would think Kuehl, 81, was some kind of desperado.

The search was related to a sheriff’s investigation into a nonprofit organization called Peace Over Violence, run by Patti Giggans, a friend of Kuehl’s. Giggans is a member of the Sheriff’s Civilian Oversight Board and she and Kuehl have called for the resignation of Villanueva, who has a well-established record of retaliating against critics.

The investigation relates, in part, to a former Metro employee’s claim that Kuehl improperly helped Giggans secure a contract to operate a hotline to report sexual harassment on public transit.

“Totally untrue,” Kuehl said Wednesday of her home invasion, adding that she knew nothing about the contract and that supervisors hadn’t voted for her approval.

If there’s reason to suspect something fishy or illegal in the contract, we haven’t seen the evidence yet. But we’ve seen plenty of evidence that the little Villanueva — whose department has been the subject of misconduct and civil rights abuses — worked hard to destroy his own credibility.

Now stick with me here because there is a thread, explained by Tchekmedyian, that you need to follow:

The warrants served on Kuehl and Giggans on Wednesday were approved by Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Craig Richman, who has a relationship with Mark Lillienfeld, an investigator with Villanueva’s Public Corruption Unit.

“Their relationship came under intense scrutiny several years ago when an independent investigation by the Sheriff’s Department was conducted into whether Lillienfeld tried to help Richman out of legal trouble,” he said. writes Chekmedyian.

It’s like something out of “Chinatown”.

Regarding the search warrant served on Giggans, “Those are third world tactics,” said his attorney, Austin Dove. “Vladimir Putin would be impressed.”

In June, when I wrote that one of the candidates vying to replace Villanueva would be an improvement, the sheriff emailed me complaining.

He listed, among his accomplishments, “getting ICE out of jails, body-worn cameras, creating a national model of best practices for managing the pandemic in our prison system, leading county efforts to stop looting during civil unrest, rooting out the illegal marijuana that grows in Antelope Valley.

Whatever he claims as accomplishments, he has drawn up a long list of negatives.

I mentioned a few of them in May, when I wrote that Villanueva “rejected requirements for reporting minor uses of force, he wanted to bring back metal flashlights that had been used as batons in the past, and he had opposed former sheriff Jim McDonnell’s attempts to give prosecutors a secret list of deputies disciplined for dishonesty and misconduct.

Incidentally, I responded to Villanueva’s complaint by emailing him twice, offering to meet him in his runoff against former Long Beach Police Chief Robert Luna.

He didn’t accept the offer.

It should be noted that in his email, Villanueva claimed that he was working for the people of Los Angeles County, not the Board of Supervisors. He said the “civilian oversight board is waging a proxy war against my office on behalf of the board” of supervisors.

Obviously, he is leading a counter-offensive.

But unless Villanueva can produce evidence that justifies the Wednesday morning searches, it’s just another misfire, with the sheriff once again shooting himself in the foot.

Steve.lopez@latimes.com


Los Angeles Times

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