October 25, 2008

Got Towing Fees?

Fortunately in Lakewood no ones car is ever towed as their is no parking enforcement and even when there is, LASD is not involved in it in any way, especially enforcement. It is the city civilian "parking enforcement staff" who have to call the city council to get an ok to write a parking ticket (for fear of pissing of one of the 2500 people that elects the council). This is a good idea given what we have to pay cops per hour to do this. (only problem is the parking enforcement people dont even pay for themselves with the fines collected; but I digress). Oh one other point... the parking staff leaves at 5pm when all the parking violations occur (once people come home form work). At that point you have to call LASD to complain about a parking problem. Perhaps if the violation is parking in front of a cops driveway you might get someone to respond.

The stories below are really a sad commentary on the greediness of law enforcement. Here are people who we pay very well to enforce the law yet they take advantage of their position to rip off the taxpayers even more. According to a high ranking cop I know the argument for paying police extremely high salaries in CA was to prevent corruption. Well I guess it has not worked at LASD. Even sadder is the fact that the LASD sheriff retired before being accused (caught). So he was making the top pay scale when he "allegedly" ripped off the city. What do you think the chances are this will ever get to court or that this cop will refund the money off his 100k a year pension benefits we are paying? Not likely.

LAAG hopes to revisit this story but we are pretty sure we will not hear of this story again. What is even sadder is this has likely happened before and never made it into the press. Also the LASD is also "reviewing several other internal policies" where I suppose graft and corruption could exist but that have not even been looked at yet. Very sad. I wonder if there are any investigations going on in Lakewood? Surely not (an no one in this city questions anything LASD does) and if there were you can be sure we will never know about it. Wonder if the city ever finished this "investigation"? Where are the results?

Probe of alleged theft prompts L.A. County sheriff to review impound policies
Lee Baca says he plans to have tow-truck operators collect the fees instead of department officials. Investigators are looking into the alleged theft of $400,000 by a sergeant.
By Richard Winton
October 23, 2008

Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca said an investigation into allegations that a sergeant stole more than $400,000 in car impound fees has prompted a review of the way his department handles such transactions for the dozens of cities it patrols.

Baca said he plans to have the towing operators collect the administrative fees directly from motorists, rather than involving sheriff's officials in the process.

"I don't see the need for the department to be a cashier," he said. "The system has to be tightened."

Sheriff's officials initiated the review after La Puente officials reported a significant shortfall in the fees that were supposed to have been collected by the Sheriff's Department, authorities said.

The sergeant retired from the department in May shortly after he was placed on leave as a result of the ongoing investigation, authorities confirmed this week. He could not be reached for comment. No charges have been filed in the case.

"Our residents have been stolen from," said La Puente Mayor Louie Lujan. "This is a large amount of money. It will have a direct impact on our city budget."

According to authorities, the sergeant supervised La Puente's car impound program and also ran the drunk driving task force and other programs that led to impounds.

John Stites, president of the Los Angeles County Professional Peace Officers Assn., said a union attorney was ready to rebut any allegations made against the sergeant.

"They have been playing around with this for about a year and they have yet to present anything," Stites said.

As part of the investigation into the missing funds, Baca said, detectives have seized money but "not enough to cover the shortfall." He did not say from whom the money was seized.

Michael Gennaco, head of the Office of Independent Review, which serves as the Sheriff's Department watchdog, said the way the cash was handed to deputies by vehicle owners at the Industry Sheriff's Station was problematic.

"That is not a good practice. There is a need for systemic change to avoid this kind of problem," he said.

Gennaco said other stations have had issues. Compton, for example, had accounting discrepancies, but authorities did not establish that money had been stolen, Gennaco said.

Winton is a Times staff writer


Sheriff's department re-thinking towing fees
By Tania Chatila, Staff Writer
Article Launched: 10/24/2008 10:55:17 PM PDT

The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department is reexamining how it collects towing fees after allegations emerged a former traffic sergeant took nearly $500,000 from the city of La Puente.

Sheriff's spokesman Steve Whitmore said while several potential policy changes are on the table, Sheriff Lee Baca wants to take the department out of the collection process completely.

"The sheriff has a strong feeling that the sheriff's department should not be a cashier," Whitmore said.

The department has been reviewing their policies for the past few months, Whitmore said. It stems mostly from an ongoing investigation into allegations former Industry station Sgt. Joe Dyer was stealing tow money from La Puente.

The department's Internal Criminal Investigations Bureau has been investigating Dyer since the beginning of the year.

Officials believe he was collecting towing fees intended for La Puente, but not turning over all of those fees to the city.

La Puente is supposed to receive $168 each time a car is impounded.

That fee is paid to the sheriff's Industry Station, which issues a receipt that the driver must provide to reclaim his or her vehicle at La Puente-based Haddick's towing company. The driver then pays a separate fee to Haddick's and the car is released.

La Puente Councilwoman Lola Storing said officials believe Dyer was only dropping off a portion of those fees and receipts at City Hall - which were never reconciled with the Haddick's records.

Dyer retired in May. He did not return calls seeking comment.

"Let's just say that this has been a wake-up call for the department," said Michael Gennaco, chief attorney for the Office of Internal Review.

The OIR is an independent agency that reviews alleged policy violations within the Sheriff's Department. They are aware of the allegations against Dyer and expect to receive a copy of the case once it is submitted to the District Attorney.

"It's still an ongoing investigation," Whitmore said. "But once it's done we will seek prosecution."

There has been one other case within the department involving mishandled tow fees, Whitmore said.

The incident took place in 2007. It involved a deputy in Compton who was suspended for 10 days after failing to follow the department's money handling procedures, Whitmore said.

Gennaco said that while there was initial concern this deputy might have stolen money, the evidence didn't bear that out.

"There was no evidence of any funds missing," Whitmore said. "Apparently he was not doing the paperwork properly. There was no money involved."

The incident is chronicled in an OIR quarterly report released earlier this year.

Gennaco said strides have already been made at the sheriff's Industry Station to reduce the potential for theft.

"The way things are done now in Industry are totally different," he said.

The department is also reviewing several other internal policies and will consult with the Board of Supervisors, Whitmore said.

Other options include taking the department to a cashless system, he said.

"One of the difficulties is we've got 40 cities and each city kind of has its own way of doing things," Whitmore said. "The whole key here is to encourage people to be honest."

La Puente officials are also reviewing their own cash handling procedures.

Staff Writer Frank C. Girardot contributed to this story.


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