Los Angeles, CA – California Attorney General Rob Bonta pulled the “ongoing public corruption investigation” into Los Angeles County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl away from the county sheriff on Tuesday and announced that the California Department of Justice (DOJ) will oversee the matter instead.
Bonta also granted a request from Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva to open an investigation into allegations Los Angeles County Civilian Oversight Commissioner Patricia “Patti” Giggans and Kuehl were tipped off that deputies would be serving search warrants at their homes last week.
“In conjunction with today’s announcement, DOJ has requested that LASD cease its investigative activity and transmit all evidence to DOJ,” Bonta’s office said in a press release on Tuesday.
In addition to taking over the investigation, Bonta also ordered the sheriff’s office to “refrain from any actions in furtherance of these investigations, including public statements or court filings related to the investigations.”
“In recent days, the public unfolding of an unprecedented investigation has raised serious questions for residents of Southern California and beyond,” Bonta said. “I recognize the deep uncertainty this has engendered and, given the unique circumstances, my team has committed to taking over this investigative process.”
Bonta said he has supervisorial authority over all of California’s sheriffs under the state’s government code and constitution, and that Sheriff Villanueva had already recused himself from the public corruption investigation at the center of the controversy.
“…given that the requested investigation is intimately related to the underlying investigation from which the sheriff is recused, DOJ has determined that handling all of the matters is in the public interest,” he said.
Bonta said he is confident the DOJ will uncover the truth about what transpired.
“Make no mistake: We are committed to a thorough, fair, and independent investigation that will help restore confidence for the people of our state,” the state attorney general noted. “If there is wrongdoing by any party, we will bring it to light.”
Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LACSD) investigators and federal law enforcement officers executed the search warrant at Kuehl’s home at approximately 7 a.m. on Sept. 14.
Additional search warrants were served at Giggans’ home, as well as Los Angeles Metro Headquarters, the Peace Over Violence Headquarters, and the Los Angeles Hall of Administration, KTTV reported.
According to a redacted copy of the affidavit that resulted in the warrants being issued, the investigation involved “an allegation of criminal conduct” allegedly committed by Kuehl in connection with three “sole source contracts awarded to a nonprofit organization operating under the name Peace Over Violence,” KTTV reported.
Giggans is the executive director of Peace Over Violence.
Kuehl is a member of the Peace Over Violence advisory board, was responsible for appointing Giggans to the Civilian Oversight Commission, officiated Giggans’ wedding 19 years ago, and has allegedly been close friends with Giggans for decades.
The series of contracts awarded to the nonprofit between 2014 and 2020 totaled more than $800,000 and were to be used to establish and operate a hotline for public transit users to report instances of sexual harassment, the Los Angeles Times reported.
According to court documents, the contract was extended without analysis or a competitive bid, even though the hotline ended up being a “complete failure,” the Los Angeles Times reported.
The nonprofit’s operation of the hotline was estimated to have cost taxpayers more than $8,000 per phone call while it was in operation, according to KTTV.
Former Metro project manager Jennifer Loew came forward as a whistleblower and alleged that Kuehl helped to steer the no-bid contracts to her friend, Giggans, via the Peace Over Violence organization.
As the raid was taking place inside her house on Wednesday, Kuehl told a KTTV reporter that Los Angeles County Inspector General Max Huntsman and a female attorney who represents Los Angeles County told her about the warrant on Tuesday night.
Huntsman is also the head of the Board of Supervisors Oversight Department.
The attorney Kuehl mentioned was not specifically named.
Kuehl said she did nothing wrong and that the raid was a “thuggish” intimidation attempt, FOX News reported.
She further described the case as a “bogus non-investigation” and said she had “no knowledge of the no-bid contract,” KTTV reported.
“I think the sheriff’s department going along with this Metro employee indicates the sheriff’s department is complicit in this,” Kuehl told reporters. “Alex [Villanueva] I’m told recused himself from this… if he doesn’t know about it, that means there’s a rogue element within the sheriff’s department and either way it’s totally out of control.”
Sheriff Villanueva fired off a letter to Bonta after the raids asking him to open an investigation into Giggans and Kuehl allegedly being tipped off about the search warrants.
“When the search warrant was served on the residence of Patricia ‘Patti’ Giggans, the detectives were met at the door by Ms. Giggans and her attorney,” the sheriff’s letter to Bonta read. “It was obvious both were already aware of the search warrant and were waiting for detectives to arrive.”
Sheriff Villanueva noted that Kuehl told reporters during “an impromptu press conference” that he had been “informed” about the warrant by Huntsman the night prior.
“She also stated she was told about the search warrant the night before by a female employed by Los Angeles County Counsel…who represents both myself as Los Angeles County Sheriff and the Board of Supervisors concurrently as legal counsel,” he added.
Sheriff Villanueva asked Bonta to open an investigation into allegations of interfering with a criminal investigation.
“The illegal acts committed by Mr. Huntsman and County Counsel have potentially compromised the integrity of this criminal investigation including, but not limited to, the concealment or destruction of evidence,” Sheriff Villanueva said.
“I do not have to explain the alleged criminal, administrative, and ethical laws which were broken by Mr. Huntsman and the currently unidentified person(s) employed by County Counsel,” he wrote. “We are confident phone records will soon reveal any text messages received by Ms. Kuehl and Ms. Giggans, which illegally alerted them to the search warrant, as well as the intent behind their actions.”
Critics alleged the search was politically motivated and have accused Sheriff Villanueva of using the LACSD’s Public Corruption Unit to target those who disagree with him, KTTV reported.
“I have a deep fear that locally we are seeing exactly what we saw nationally under the Trump Administration: politically motivated actions and attacks towards critics and dissenters of the Sheriff,” West Hollywood City Councilmember Lindsey Horvath said.
Los Angeles Councilmember Mike Bonin also threw his support behind Kuehl, calling her “a public official of the highest integrity.”
“This is a bogus, vindictive, politically motivated witch hunt by a corrupt sheriff with a track record of abusing his power and trying to silence and intimidate his critics,” Bonin declared in a statement released on Wednesday.
He further accused Sheriff Villanueva of running “a department notorious for violence, scandal, and civil rights violations.”
“He is scared of civilian oversight, defies civilian oversight, and is abusing his power to get revenge on those who exercise civilian oversight,” Bonin added.
Huntsman denied allegations that he was involved in alerting Kuehl about the impending search warrant.
“The phone records will show whether I tipped them off or not,” he told the Los Angeles Times. “I didn’t.”
Giggans said police seized her nonprofit’s server during the search and that she consequently does not know how the organization will be able to function.
“The server is, you know, all communication,” she told the Los Angeles Times.
She described the officers as “bullies” and vowed that the situation was “a lawsuit in the making.”
Austin Dove, the attorney representing Giggans, said the raids exemplified “Third World Tactics.”
“Vladimir Putin would be impressed,” he told the Los Angeles Times.
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors have clashed with Sheriff Villanueva over budgetary issues, vaccine mandates, policies on how to handle homelessness, and various pushes to “defund the police,” Breitbart reported.
Although the position of Los Angeles County sheriff is an elected office, the board of supervisors has placed a referendum on this year’s ballot that would allow the board to fire the sheriff with a majority vote.