WeHo City Council to consider seeking sheriff’s audit

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Wave Staff Report

WEST HOLLYWOOD — A resolution calling for an investigation into the billing practices of the Los Angeles County Sheriff Department will be discussed by the West Hollywood City Council at its June 7 meeting.

The proposed resolution comes in the wake of a legal claim filled by the city of Compton against the Sheriff’s Department and Los Angeles County alleging the county is failing to provide adequate law enforcement services to the city under the terms of its contract.

“The claim alleges the county defrauded the city of Compton concerning the use of ‘annual minutes’ for which the city has contracted to pay [the Sheriff’s Department] in exchange for crime suppression cars and deputies on the street,” a statement issued by the law firm Douglas/Hicks said May 26. 

Compton is alleging the Sheriff’s Department has bilked the city out of millions of dollars by falsely reporting the amount of time deputies spend patrolling the city.

The city claims the minutes fraud has resulted in major understaffing at the Compton Sheriff’s Station, a lack of responsiveness to calls for service and increased crime and danger to the public.

“We will fight hard for the good people of Compton, seeking to recover money stolen from them … by the county,” Hicks said.

The city of West Hollywood, like Compton and 43 other cities in Los Angeles County contracts with the Sheriff’s Department for law enforcement services.

Compton spends about $22 million a year under its contract with the department.

“The city of West Hollywood is aware of serious allegations from the city of Compton … against the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva in a claim for damages,” the city of West Hollywood said in a statement issued May 26.

“A news article [announcing that suit] reported a sheriff’s deputy’s allegation in a media interview that, while working at the West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station, … he was asked to fabricate records,” the city’s statement added.

“The city of West Hollywood has a regular monthly internal review process for its public safety billing in coordination with its local station’s leadership. This review process ensures checks and balances and serves to monitor how the city is billed for sheriff’s personnel time,” the city’s statement continued.

The council will discuss how the city will respond to the accusations leveled against the Sheriff’s Department at its meeting, which will be conducted by teleconference and begins at 6 p.m.

The city said it to the county Board of Supervisors and Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, who represents the city, for a full and transparent process regarding billing discrepancies and misappropriations.

The proposed resolution will ask the council to consider calling on the Board of Supervisors and the Sheriff’s Department’s inspector general to work with the California Contract Cities Association to audit the billing with Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department for all contract cities. 

Sheriff Alex Villanueva dismissed the allegations in the claim filed by the city of Compton. A claim can be a precursor to a lawsuit

We have about 45 contracts and we measure the minutes, and there’s a rate — we have to get close to 100%, either slightly above or slightly below,” Villanueva said. “If we’re missing that target, I don’t think it’s going to be the grand conspiracy that the outgoing mayor of Compton wants it to be.

But we’ll definitely take the allegation seriously, and we are already doing a thorough audit on it, and we’ll take action based on the results of that. Nothing unusual there. But to call it a fraud, that might be a little bit of a stretch.”

Villanueva added that at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, when the court system was closed down, “we flooded all of the patrol stations with extra personnel.”

We went way beyond the 100% compliance with all of the contracts,” he said. “Didn’t get a single complaint from a single one that we were not complying with the contract, strangely.”

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