In a new twist in the investigation into MTA contracts that led to the raid on Supervisor Sheila Kuehl’s home last week, the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department has been pulled off the case.
The Sheriff’s Department served a search warrant on Kuehl’s home in Santa Monica as part of an “ongoing public corruption investigation” into contracts that the nonprofit Peace Over Violence received from L.A. County Metro.
The head of the nonprofit, Patricia Giggans, is a life-long friend of Kuehl’s and the question arose whether Kuehl had improperly helped get the contracts. Giggans’ home as well as the County Hall of Administration and the offices of the MTA were also raided.
The MTA awarded $890,000 to Peace Over Violence between 2014 and 2020 to operate a sexual harassment tip line for Metro riders. A whistle blower complaint raised the question of conflict of interest.
In response to the raid, Kuehl, who has been a long time critic of Sheriff Alex Villanueva, even calling for his resignation, argued the claims were baseless and the raid retaliatory.
Lawyers for Kuehl said that the search warrants were a “flagrant abuse of power and an offense to the rule of law.”
California Attorney General Rob Bonta ordered the Sheriff’s Department to stop investigating and hand over all evidence. He was also investigating claims from Villanueva that Kuehl and Giggans had been tipped off to the searches in advance.
“In recent days, the public unfolding of an unprecedented investigation has raised serious questions for residents of Southern California and beyond,” said Bonta in a statement. “I recognize the deep uncertainty this has engendered and, given the unique circumstances, my team has committed to taking over this investigative process. Make no mistake: We are committed to a thorough, fair, and independent investigation that will help restore confidence for the people of our state. If there is wrongdoing by any party, we will bring it to light.”
After challenges from the MTA and Kuehl, Superior Court Judge William Ryan ordered a temporary ban on the Sheriff’s Dept. examining any computers taken from the two. He stopped short of granting the request that he find the search warrants invalid.
Kuehl’s lawyers have asked for a special master be appointed to go through all seized material to weed out privileged communications. Kuehl continues to call all allegations “totally bogus” and says she knew nothing about the contract.