For this work—which department sources describe as a sort of part-time community outreach intended to bolster Baca’s relationships in LA’s African American communities—Turner was paid $105,000 a year, given his own county car, county-paid gasoline, a county cell phone, 3 county computers and, when needed, his own “collateral duty deputy” to help him with unspecified tasks. All of this on the taxpayers’ dime.
On Wednesday, however, Turner was abruptly relieved of his duties pending an internal affairs investigation, after KABC-TV reporters began asking questions for which the department found it had no answers, according to LASD spokesman Steve Whitmore. (For weeks, KABC had been looking into Turner and his activities with the LASD.)
In two news segments airing Wednesday night, reporter Marc Brown revealed the three issues that triggered Turner’s sudden departure from the LASD and the accompanying department probe into his activities.
The three issues are as follows:
1. KABC reporters found that an illegal marijuana dispensary is operating on land that Turner owns located across the street from the church where Turner is the founding pastor, the Power of Love Christian Fellowship ministries.
When asked about the dispensary—which is illegal in that it is not one of the 134 dispensaries sanctioned by Measure D— Turner claimed he didn’t really know anything about the operation, or its illegality. However, when KABC talked to the dispensary’s owner, the man said he walked the rent check across the street to Turner’s church every month.
2. In addition to his church, Turner runs a nonprofit organization called H.O.P.E. for Life. KABC tried to look into the organization’s financials, which, due to its tax exempt status, should have been publically accessible. They found that H.O.P.E. for Life had its nonprofit status revoked in 2009 for its failure to file the proper yearly disclosures with the IRS.
This information evidently did not play well with the sheriff who, among other things, has repeatedly raised money for H.O.P.E for Life with the department’s yearly “Multi-faith Prayer Breakfast” (an event that many upper-level department supervisors are reportedly strongly urged to attend).
3. Then, weirdest of all, KABC obtained a highly suggestive sheriff’s department incident report, circa 2005 involving a mysterious package addressed to Turner’s church containing large amounts of cash.
Here’s what KABC’s Marc Brown reported:
We also had questions about a 2005 sheriff’s department “incident report.” A package that was addressed to Turner’s Power of Love church was intercepted by a sheriff’s department narcotics team. The package contained $84,020 in cash.
Detectives wrote in their report that based on their expertise, that the cash was the “direct proceeds from the sale of controlled substances, or illegal narcotics.”
“I was totally appalled and upset about that situation,” said Turner.
According to the report, Turner called a detective and said he wasn’t expecting a parcel and didn’t know anyone in New York who would send him a box of money.
When WitnessLA spoke to Steve Whitmore on Wednesday night after the broadcast, he reiterated that the sheriff was “taken aback” by news of the marijuana dispensary, especially since Baca has been very public about his opposition to dispensaries, which—despite his early support of medical marijuana—he views as having spun out of control.
Whitmore also said that Baca moved quickly to cancel all upcoming donations to Turner’s non-nonprofit.
“The sheriff knew nothing about any of this,” said Whitmore
About the box of cash, Whitmore said that the matter had been “fully investigated” by the department, and that, despite the fact that the package was addressed to Turner’s church, “they couldn’t connect the package to Bishop Turner.”
“But we’re still going to look into all that again in our investigation,” he said and added that the Mike Gennacco’s Office of Independent Review will be “monitoring” the department’s IA investigation.
Curiously, Whitmore also added that former undersheriff Paul Tanaka was responsible when the 2005 box-of-money-in-the-mail issue occurred, and when the subsequent investigation was conducted, clearing Turner.
“Like I said, we’re going to look into all that again.”
The rest of KABC’s well-reported and startling report may be found here.