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L.A. County sheriff searches offices of LA Metro, oversight board member in criminal probe – Daily News

Los Angeles County sheriff’s detectives this week searched the headquarters of L.A. Metro and the offices of a nonprofit run by a civilian oversight commissioner important of the division’s management, sheriff’s officers introduced Friday.

Detectives served warrants for unspecified data at each places on Thursday, Feb. 18, however a spokesperson declined to supply particulars concerning the nature of the probe.

“The search warrant was signed by a judge, and partially sealed, in connection to an ongoing criminal investigation,” mentioned Deputy Eric Ortiz, a member of the sheriff’s info bureau, in an e mail. “We are unable to offer further comment at this time, in order to preserve the integrity of this active investigation.”

In an e mail, Metro spokesman Dave Sotero confirmed the transportation authority obtained a warrant.

“However, given the limited information contained in the warrant, we cannot determine the nature of LASD’s investigation,” Sotero mentioned.

Peace Over Violence, the nonprofit focused in the search, operates L.A. Metro’s “Off Limits” sexual harassment counseling hotline. Spokeswoman Darcy Pollan additionally confirmed the search warrants served at Peace Over Violence, which relies out of Metro’s headquarters on Wilshire Boulevard. She declined to remark additional.

Patricia Giggans, govt director of Peace Over Violence, is a member of the Civilian Oversight Commission and was appointed by county Supervisor Sheila Kuehl. The nine-member fee advises the Board of Supervisors and was created to extend transparency and accountability on the Sheriff’s Department.

Kuehl’s office referred questions concerning the search warrants to L.A. County Counsel. The county’s attorneys then deferred to Metro.

Commission’s rocky historical past with sheriff

Commissioners have clashed with the division, and Sheriff Alex Villanueva in specific, in the previous two years. Giggans chaired the fee when Villanueva defied a subpoena to seem at one of its conferences. Measure R, permitted by voters in March 2020, grants that energy to the Oversight Commission. In response, a Los Angeles County Superior Court decide threatened Villanueva with contempt over the problem.

Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

The fee, Kuehl and Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas known as for Villanueva’s resignation in September. Earlier this year, the Board of Supervisors mentioned attainable authorized methods for eradicating the sheriff from office shortly after the California Attorney General introduced a civil rights investigation into the division.

It is rare for the Sheriff’s Department to conduct investigations into different county businesses. The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office sometimes handles public corruption instances in the county by means of its Public Integrity Division. The Sheriff’s Department didn’t reply to questions on whether or not it’s working with different businesses, nor wouldn’t it deal with whether or not it has taken steps to keep away from any conflicts associated to investigating a commissioner.

A spokesperson for the Oversight Commission took a message from a reporter, however nobody returned the request for remark.

Peace Over Violence’s contract questioned

While it’s unclear what precisely the Sheriff’s Department is investigating, Metro’s sole sourced, no-bid contract with Peace Over Violence for the sexual harassment hotline has confronted scrutiny not too long ago.

In September, Fox 11 launched an investigation into the hotline and decided the low quantity of calls — typically just a few dozen monthly — amounted to a price of about $8,000 per name. A Metro worker, Jennifer Loew, alleged Peace Over Violence obtained the contract in 2017 by way of a behind-the-scenes push from supervisor Kuehl, a detailed pal and ally of Giggans. Loew beforehand sued Metro in February 2020, alleging discrimination and conspiracy, however a decide dismissed the case in August for a “lack of prosecution” after Loew, who represented herself, didn’t reply to a courtroom order, in response to courtroom data.

LA County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl on June 4, 2019. (Photo by Brittany Murray, Press-Telegram/SCNG)

Kuehl is a member of Metro’s board and a member of Peace Over Violence’s advisory board. In a FAQ on its web site, Peace Over Violence confirmed Kuehl and Giggan’s friendship, however denied it performed any position in the choice.

“POV categorically refutes these accusations as false and self-serving fabrications on the part of the whistleblower,” the FAQ states.

The hotline’s contract by no means got here earlier than the board for a vote as a result of it was under a $500,000 threshold. Peace Over Violence has labored on different tasks with Metro and its whole pay from the company, throughout a number of contracts, is greater than $800,000 as of 2021, in response to the nonprofit’s website. The contract is ready to run out on the finish of the year.

Metro equally advised Fox 11 that Kuehl had no affect over Peace Over Violence’s contract. Kuehl’s office on the time acknowledged that Metro CEO Phil Washington, who is ready to step down when his employment settlement expires in May, made the choice. An worker from Kuehl’s office provided suggestions on the proposed scope of work, which was described as “appropriate given the supervisor’s role as a Metro board member,” in response to the assertion to Fox 11.

Nonprofit first employed in 2015

An FAQ on Peace Over Violence’s web site signifies the nonprofit started working with Metro in 2015 in response to a survey displaying that one-fifth of Metro riders confronted undesirable sexual habits. At the time, Metro, Peace Over Violence and the Sheriff’s Department below Villanueva’s predecessor partnered on a public info marketing campaign, titled “It’s Off Limits,” that was credited with contributing to a decline in sexual harassment on the general public transportation system.

That collaboration later led to the 2017 contract for the 24/7 “Off Limits” hotline, which gives “immediate counseling, safety planning, advocacy and referrals” to callers. The hotline gives a “direct link” to Metro Security for reporting and monitoring the place and when assaults are occurring, in response to the nonprofit.

The hotline has reportedly helped greater than 200 victims of sexual harassment or assault and dealt with “thousands” of calls from distressed riders. Fox 11’s investigation instructed publicly launched details about the quantity of calls could have been inflated as a result of many have been hangups or improper numbers.

Peace Over Violence denied the allegation. The website states there isn’t any quota related to the hotline and questioned placing a “price tag on serving a survivor of violence.”

“According to our contract, all calls coming into the hotline are legitimate,” the FAQ states. “Hangups are common on hotlines, and we do not classify them as live calls from survivors. We repeatedly called attention to the low number of calls received and continued to encourage Metro to advertise this service.”

Metro not advertises the hotline’s quantity and as a substitute refers callers reporting sexual harassment to the non-profit in the event that they want counseling.

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