Part 1 of the long-promised promised “30-Day” audit of alleged improprieties at the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department’s Aero Bureau was made public on Wednesday, Oct. 10, and found only a handful of problems.
The Board of Supervisors ordered the audit from the County’s Auditor-Controller back in the beginning of April of this year with a motion by Zev Yaroslavsky, when Supervisors became concerned after the publication of two reports from WitnessLA (here and here) stories from the LA Times, pointed to allegations outlined in an LASD internal report, that a $29 million Board of Supervisors-approved contract to do completion work on the LASD’s 12 new helicopters, may be loaded with overcharges and unnecessary equipment to the tune of up to $11 million.
The internal memo, written by a former Aero Bureau Sergeant also alleged that some Aero Bureau supervisors colluded to rig the bidding process.
More specifically, the memo outlined the four following “areas of concern:”
1. Excessive labor costs,
2. The purchase of extra equipment outside the scope of what was approved by the Board of Supervisors, and often with hefty mark-ups attached
3. Standard equipment purchased in excess of what was required.
4. Charges for installation of basic equipment that conventionally should have been installed at the factory as part of the price of the aircraft.
3 SMALL PROBLEMS
Despite these detailed allegations, the audit basically found only three problems with Aero Bureau’s ordering and contract process:
1. The department messed with some of the contractual language without permission for some of its parts and/or service agreements.
2. Aero Bureau didn’t always get competitive bids for its helicopter repair services, like it was supposed to do.
3. Aero Bureau purchased a bunch of $200-ish rain jackets that it didn’t really need. (Oh, those crazy Aero boys!)
As for the rest of the allegations of contractual, bidding and purchasing irregularities relating to the purchase of a new fleet of twelve A-Star ‘copters, the audit concluded that all were ‘unfounded”—nothing to see here, folks.
ROUND TWO STILL AHEAD
There is, however, to be a Part 2 of the audit, which will reportedly concern itself with the rest of the allegations that WitnessLA outlined here in its April 2 report, which draws on a lawsuit brought by former Aero Bureau supervisor, Ed Cook, plus interviews with multiple Aero Bureau sources who allege that, at the direction of a cluster of Aero Bureau supervisors and the group’s head, Captain Louis Duran, pilots were told to ignore service calls as part of a scheme to create the impression that more, high-paying overtime was “needed” (at a time when overtime elsewhere in the department was being slashed to the bone)—plus other safety-risking irregularities. We also reported allegations of regularly falsified records, misuse of county aircraft (including a take-home helicopter), and a pattern of retaliation against Aero Bureau whistle blowers.
Based on our reporting, and subsequent conversations with our Aero Bureau sources, we believe this second set of allegations will be far harder to dismiss.
More soon. So stay tuned