June 10, 2007

Its not really about Paris Hilton

Lets get something straight. LAAG could care less about Paris Hilton. (LAAG does owe Paris however for helping to draw lots of medial attention to Sheriff Baca's actions.) What is more concerning to us (and should be to you readers) is that Sheriff Baca is acting like George "The Decider" Bush. The judge made it pretty clear in his May 8, 2007 order how Paris Hilton was and was not to serve her sentence. (read the order here from TMZ.com) The City Attorney's Office got upset when they realized Paris had been freed by Baca on some "vague medical reason" which no one will oficially clarify. The judge asked to see it and apparently has not as of this writing. So the City Attorney was understandably upset when Baca The Decider just decided on his own (without asking the judge) to release her from jail. LAAG understands that the Sheriff is in charge of the "administration" of the jail. But he cannot determine sentences. (Read the full text of the City Attorneys motion heard on June 8 from TMZ.com)

Don Knabe and the other LA County Board of Supervisors basically gave Baca a free pass on this (and most other things he does) as he is elected and they feel they have no responsibility for his actions. Read Knabe's press release. We that feeling may be changing as of this writing they are now calling for an investigation into Baca's Bush like "I control the world" mentality. See Story from North County Times below.

Now the British press reported on 6/10 that Baca accepted campaign contributions from Hilton family and that this looks like a quid pro quo. See story below from Daily Mail.

Finally as reported in the LA Times, if the Board of Supervisors and the Sheriff would follow the law and allow more transparency in campaign contributions perhaps less of this type of thing would happen. See LA times story below.

I guess the www.recallbaca.com site was ahead of the news!

from The Daily Mail (UK)

Paris's grandad gave election cash to sheriff who freed her
Last updated at 14:12pm on 10th June 2007

Paris Hilton's billionaire grandfather donated money last year to the sheriff who released the 26-year-old heiress from jail.

William Barron Hilton, 78, co-chairman of the Hilton Hotel chain, made a contribution of around £500 ($1,000 approx) to Sheriff Lee Baca’s re-election campaign - the maximum allowed by law - according to financial records.

Was it right to send Paris back to jail? Join the debate in readers' comments below...

The Mail on Sunday examined the returns after a friend of the Hilton family claimed Paris’s release may have been a 'quid pro quo'.

The friend said: "A member of her family has been a contributor to Baca’s campaign and this may have been payback time.

"Her entourage initially were confident she would be out of jail in a few days."

Sheriff Baca has faced heavy criticism for attempting to overrule the judge in the case.

His spokesman Steve Whitmore reacted angrily when asked by The Mail on Sunday if Paris received special treatment because of the contribution, snapping, "Absolutely not."

Hilton left jail on Thursday, having served just three days of her sentence for flouting a drink-driving ban.

She was originally told she would spend 45 days in jail with no prospect of early release, although the term was later cut in half for good behaviour.

But when the outraged judge heard Hilton had been released to serve the remainder of the term at her luxury home, he ordered her to be sent back to jail.

He also said she must serve the full 45-day sentence.

Sheriff Baca has been accused of favouritism towards the Hollywood elite in the past.

Celebrities including Sylvester Stallone and Dustin Hoffman have backed his election campaigns since 1998.

Last summer, Sheriff Baca was at the centre of a row when he failed to report Mel Gibson’s anti-Semitic tirade after he was arrested for drink-driving.

Gibson had filmed TV adverts for one of Sheriff Baca’s pet causes - an education fund for policemen’s children.

Hilton’s early release has led Baca’s own employees to criticise him.

Steve Remige, president of the Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs, which represents 9,000 deputies, said: "Outward appearances seem to be that the sheriff does lean toward favouritism of the rich and famous."

Baca, 65, insists he released Hilton because she was suffering from a worsening medical problem.

He said: "My biggest concern was basically her deterioration."

Hilton was under observation in the medical ward at Los Angeles’s Twin Towers jail.

Paris issued a statement saying her lawyers would not appeal the judge's decision.

It went on to say: "I was shocked to see all of the attention devoted to the amount of time I would spend in jail for what I had done by the media, public and city officials.

"I would hope going forward that the public and the media will focus on more important things like the men and women serving our country in Iraq and other places around the world."


From the Los Angeles Times

The county's slouch toward public access
Be patient. Los Angeles' county government will provide searchable campaign finance data online. Someday.

May 21, 2007

IT TOOK A LITTLE TIME, but the point is that it didn't take forever.

Times reporters Jack Leonard and Doug Smith grew weary of waiting for Los Angeles County to fulfill its commitment to make campaign contribution data easily available for public scrutiny. So the reporters and their editors did it themselves, hiring a company to computerize the records for $6,300. That's less than what the county registrar-recorder/clerk's office, with an annual budget of about $120 million, spent last year on "household expenses."

Then the Times built its own searchable database — in four months. That's less time than it often takes a county department to "report back" to the Board of Supervisors on a policy question. And it's far less time than it has taken the registrar-recorder/clerk to follow the board's directive to take candidates' campaign filings and actually post them online as a searchable database.

The subject came before the board in the fall of 2005 after The Times reported that a campaign finance law passed by voters in 1996 had been virtually ignored by the county. Candidates were filing their records, but no one was monitoring the data for compliance. The article embarrassed the supervisors, and Registrar-Recorder/Clerk Conny McCormack told them that she would put together a searchable database. Eighteen months later, the project still isn't done.

McCormack says she's doing the best she can, given other commitments, such as updating voting systems. So if you wanted to know who was donating money to the last winning campaigns of Supervisors Gloria Molina and Zev Yaroslavsky, Sheriff Lee Baca and Assessor Rick Auerbach, you had your choice of leafing through the paper documents at McCormack's office in Norwalk or calling up copies, one by one, online. If you wanted to search by donor — like you can in the city of L.A. and state of California — to quickly find how much a candidate is beholden to any single contributor or whether donors complied with the $1,000-per-candidate limit that voters adopted a decade earlier … well, too bad. Take a number.

McCormack promises her searchable online database will be ready by July 2. But even then, it will only allow users to check for donations made since January. This syrup-like pace calls into question how serious the elected supervisors were about wanting to open their campaign data to scrutiny. If public access to data within the fortress of county government were a priority, the project could have been completed by now.

Or, perhaps, even if the supervisors wanted the county bureaucracy to move faster, they were incapable of coaxing it into action. If that's the case, it forecasts a very long wait indeed for movement on gang violence, hospital reform, care for the homeless and a host of other services for which county government is responsible.

Also on campaign issues (from Earlier LA Times Reports):

Last year, the Los Angeles Times reported Baca put one of his closest friends on the payroll as a $105,000-a-year adviser.

The newspaper also said he had accepted more than $42,000 in gifts since taking office, including some from those who do business with his department.

In 2004, he took more gifts than California's other 57 sheriffs combined.

Baca oversees an 8,000-officer force that has been vexed by low morale, tight budgets, overcrowded jails and the persistence of gang crime.


County Supervisors want investigation into Hilton's release from jail
June 8, 2007

LOS ANGELES - Just hours after Paris Hilton was released from jail, Los Angeles County Supervisor Yvonne B. Burke said Thursday she wants an investigation into why the socialite was placed on electronic monitoring despite a judge's ruling that she be kept behind bars.

As of early afternoon, the five members of the Board of Supervisors had collectively received more than 400 phone calls, e-mails and faxes from constituents expressing their displeasure and anger over the socialite's release. County spokeswoman Judy Hammond said that as of 2:30 p.m., her office had received 550 angry e-mails and about 50 phone calls.

Nick Velasquez, a spokesman for the Los Angeles City Attorney's Office -- which prosecuted Hilton -- said the office has "been inundated with calls and e-mails from people" not only in Los Angeles but across the nation who were upset about Hilton's early release.

"One hundred percent of them are angry," he said.

When the Board of Supervisors meets on Tuesday, Burke said she plans to ask for a report on the situation.

"The decision is not inconsistent with current department policy. I do understand that there is massive overcrowding and there have been a lot of releases as a matter of practice," Burke said.

Sheriff Lee Baca is independently elected, but his budget is controlled by the Board of Supervisors. County supervisors routinely request reports and investigations from the sheriff.

Supervisor Mike Antonovich said he was "dismayed" by the decision to release the heiress, noting that Hilton's West Hollywood home is "more elaborate and plush than 99 percent of the people residing" in the county.

"This makes a mockery of due process and you're dealing with a spoiled brat, acting out to get her way instead of serving her time as was adjudicated by the courts. She should pay the consequences for her actions and what's happened -- she's now going home to her estate," Antonovich said.

Hilton, released from jail nearly three weeks ahead of schedule, will be confined to her cushy home overlooking the Sunset Strip for the next 40 days.

Supervisor Don Knabe said Hilton must serve her entire sentence.

"This incident with Paris Hilton is just the most recent that highlights the problems our criminal justice system has with making sure sentences stick, whether it is in a county jail or under electronic monitoring," Knabe said.

"Length of punishment belongs in the hands of our judges and when a judge imposes a sentence, that sentence needs to stick."

A Knabe aide said the office has received hundreds of e-mails from constituents, most of whom support the supervisor's position.

One person wrote, "It will be business as usual for poor Paris. Too bad I can't give her psychiatrist a call to find out how the start of a nervous breakdown looks in case I ever need to get out of jail."

Another person wrote in his e-mail, "I know for a fact that if I were to be sent to prison, I would not have the same advantage of being transferred to house arrest because of a potential nervous breakdown. In fact, I'd be hard pressed to find anyone in jail who is not on the verge of a mental breakdown."

Sheriff's Department spokesman Steve Whitmore said the decision to release Hilton was made after "extensive consultation" with medical personnel, but he refused to elaborate, citing her privacy rights, although he said "there was no staph infection, or anything like that."

At a news conference outside the Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration, community activist Najee Ali with Project Islamic Hope said he wants the county to investigate how many other inmates in county jail have medical problems and may be eligible for electronic monitoring.

"As someone whose been inside the institution, I've seen hundreds of inmates in the jail wards that have medical conditions and they are not being released to home confinement," Ali said. "In fact, if Paris Hilton's medical condition is that serious, send her to the hospital to finish out her stay."

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