Sheriff, inspector general spar over gang questions

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Wave Wire Services

LOS ANGELES — An attorney for Sheriff Alex Villanueva has responded to Los Angeles County’s latest legal effort to compel her client to appear before the Office of Inspector General and answer questions about deputy gangs, saying the conditions imposed make it appear the Office of Inspector General is not interested in obtaining answers to the inquiries.

Villanueva attorney Linda C. Miller Savitt was reacting to a petition filed by Los Angeles County Oct. 6 in Los Angeles Superior Court, asking that a judge order Villanueva to respond to questions from Inspector General Max Huntsman while under oath and with his testimony transcribed by a court reporter.

Savitt said Villanueva appeared before the Office of Inspector General voluntarily and offered to answer any questions, but the inspector general refused to ask any questions unless the sheriff was under oath.

We had previously asked the court to weigh in on the under oath issue and the [judge] said he would if the county agreed, [but] the county said they would not agree to the court deciding that issue at the time,” Savitt said. “So, it appears the [Office of Inspector General] is not that interested in obtaining answers to questions.”

In a sworn declaration, Huntsman concurred that Villanueva appeared virtually before him on Sept. 7, but that the sheriff said he was voluntarily appearing and refused to be sworn. An attorney for Villanueva also said Huntsman could tape-record the session, but that the sheriff would not consent to his testimony being transcribed by a court reporter, according to Huntsman.

Huntsman said he subsequently suspended the proceeding so that the county could seek the relief sought in the current petition.

In his court papers, Harvinder Anand, an attorney for Los Angeles County, said the [Office of Inspector General] issued a subpoena to Villanueva Feb. 25 to testify regarding the “important topic of deputy secret societies” in the Sheriff”s Department.

Instead of complying with his obligation to submit to this valid exercise of the [Office of Inspector General’s] subpoena authority, Sheriff Villanueva delayed for months with a baseless writ to quash the subpoena,” Anand wrote in his court papers.

After Judge James C. Chalfant dismissed Villanueva’s legal action on Aug. 12, the Office of Inspector General] demanded he appear and abide by the subpoena on the mutually agreed-upon Sept. 7 date, but the sheriff “insisted that he would appear only informally and voluntarily — not pursuant to the subpoena — and that he would not agree to be sworn by a certified reporter or to have his testimony transcribed,” Anand wrote in his court papers.

By unjustifiably declining to provide under-oath transcribed testimony, even after his initial challenges to the subpoena were rejected, the sheriff continued to flout his legal obligation to submit to OIG oversight,” Anand wrote in his court papers.

Anand maintains Villanueva should have to comply with the full subpoena terms within two weeks of a court order directing him to do so. 

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