Responding to a motion by LA County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, the board of supervisors voted unanimously to request an audit of Aero Bureau—the air support division of the LA County Sheriff’s Department.
In particular, the audit will examine the allegations—reported by WitnessLA and the LA Times last week—that high ranking deputies at Aero have colluded to rig bidding to outfit the department’s fleet of 12 new helicopters, and then further colluded in allowing the vendor who won the bid to grossly overcharge as much as $11 million for equipment and services.
Last week, Yaroslavsky and other supervisors, were concerned by the news that an internal report—obtained privately by WitnessLA and the LA Times—had provided a detailed descriptions of various allegations of wrongdoing pertaining to the helicopter contract, including:
1. huge overcharges for labor
2. deliberately circumventing of the normal county approval process for millions of dollars of equipment that may or may not have been necessary.
3. Over-ordering and over charging for normal equipment, like more than a half million dollars in night vision goggles. (Where 12 or 14 were needed, 42 were purchased. And so on.) Plus equipping the helicopter with expensive gadgets that were not standard equipment.
4. Double dipping by charging for equipment installation that should commonly have already been factory installed, things like windshields and other basic parts, without which the plans could not have been flown from the factory in Texas to Los Angeles—as was the case with the 12 aircraft in question.
Supe Don Knabe also asked for an operational and fiscal audit of the sheriff’s Harbor Patrol, which operates in Marina del Rey and the Port of Los Angeles.. A Knabe spokesman said the audit was asked for “just to be sure nothing else is going on.”
There was also some discussion about whether the expenditure of $265,000 in federal Homeland Security money on a sonar-equipped boat to be used to look for explosive devices in the county’s
waterways should also be looked at or not.
Wisely, the Supes decided not to mix apples with oranges, audit-wise.
The Auditor-Controller’s Office is supposed to have the report completed and ready to present to the Board of Supervisors in 30 days.
POST SCRIPT: IT IS IMPORTANT TO NOTE that all the allegations regarding the LASD’s Aero Bureau, if proven, only involve a comparatively small group of people.
Aero in general, based on our experience, is filled with with dedicated professionals who simply want to do their jobs well.
Here’s another Rescue-5 video (this one involving a location in Topanga State Park I know well) to remind us all of that fact. Had it not been for Rescue 5 guys and their crew, I’m not at all confident that this 23-year old young woman would have made it home alive.
(Note: The patrol pilots in the AStars and other Aero personnel also often accomplish noteworthy deeds but, unfortunately, they don’t supply us with cool videos, like the Rescue-5 people do.)