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At First Public Sheriff’s Debate Candidates Come Out Swinging

March 14th, 2014 by Celeste Fremon


At Wednesday night’s debate between those in the race for the office of LA county sheriff, an event put on by the Van Nuys Neighborhood Council,
the six candidates who showed up began taking swings at each other right from the beginning.

Those present at this first public debate* prior to the June 3 primary were retired LASD lieutenant Pat Gomez, former undersheriff Paul Tanaka, Long Beach Chief of Police Jim McDonnell, LAPD detective Lou Vince, assistant sheriff Jim Hellmold, and former LASD commander Bob Olmsted.

(Assistant Sheriff Todd Rogers was absent, due to a prior commitment to be interviewed by Warren Olney for Which Way LA?)

The questions that the council volleyed at the six men were largely thoughtful, but they were also general. Nobody directly challenged any of the candidates in their areas of vulnerability.

The candidates themselves, however, attempted to fill in that gap.

For example, when asked about what he would do to fix the corruption in the department, Bob Olmsted—the retired custody commander who was up first—fired off the night’s most frequently quoted soundbite.

“The fish rots from the head down,” he said, as the local news cameras rolled.

Then he ticked off a list of the LASD’s highest profile recent scandals including the fact that 20 department members have been indicted in the wake of an ongoing FBI probe into violence and corruption in the LASD. “None of this occurred in a vacuum,” he said. “It occurred with the knowledge and the acceptance of people on the department…..I will not tolerate dishonesty, civil rights issues, malfeasance…”

For anyone conversant with the various players on the candidates’ panel, this was a slam first and foremost against Paul Tanaka, (whom the Citizen’s Committed on Jail Violence had criticized harshly in its 2012 report) but also against the two assistant sheriffs, Jim Hellmold and the absent Todd Rogers.

In that same vein, Olmsted talked about a “continuous catastrophic failure of leadership and internal corruption” that “cost the taxpayers of Los Angeles over 100 million [in lawsuits} in the last three years."

Hellmold, who sat next to Olmsted and so was next in line to answer, countered immediately. "He was in charge when all of this occurred, so he already has tolerated malfeasance,” Hellmold said with a nod Olmsted's direction, characterizing his neighbor on the panel as "an ineffective leader."

This precipitated a cheer from the 50 or so Tanaka supporters who jammed the back of the room wearing red or white t-shirts emblazoned with their guy's name.

Hoping to head off such outbursts the council president, George Thomas, who was moderating the debate, had cautioned audience members to hold any applause and the like until the event's end. He now fixed the noisy Tanaka-ites with an enforcement stare.

Jim McDonnell also used the phrase "catastrophic failure of leadership", and poked at those candidates who are or were recently at the top of the department.

"We heard over and over again," he said, "'I didn’t know, I don’t recall. Nobody told me.' We didn't need to have one deputy indicted" he said. "If they had been held to a high standard, their families would be intact. Their freedom wouldn't be at stake."

With a clear swipe at pay-to-play accusations against Paul Tanaka, McDonnell also announced that he was the only candidate who had sworn not to take any money from those working for him or from members of the LASD.

(In fact, Jim Hellmold too has made the same pledge.)

Pat Gomez leveled similar criticism when he said that he would request that the FBI do a forensic audit of the department's finances. "Mr. Tanaka talked about being a CPA," he said. "Yet the auditor released a report in January and said that $138 million in funds were mishandled from special accounts within this department. Who's responsible for that?"

Tanaka struck back at various points citing what he characterized as the inexperience and, in the case of McDonnell, the outsider status of his rivals. "As a 31 year veteran of the department I'm the only candidate who has the institutional knowledge that will be critical for restoring trust and credibility to the organization. The job of sheriff is too big and too important for on the job training."


GETTING IN A RUNOFF

One of the debate's undercurrents was the fact that, due to the large number of hopefuls in the race, it is unlikely that the June primary will produce a winner.

The matter is intensified by the the fact that some election watchers suggest Jim McDonnell---with his extensive resume and his list of high profile endorsements---is the closest thing to a frontrunner in the contest. If that is so, he will occupy one of the slots in the runoff, leaving only one up for grabs between the rest.

Thus it may not be enough for the remaining candidates to merely impress voters with their own stellar qualities. They also must to find a way to knock a couple of others out of the running---or at the very least, dirty them up a bit.


AND....THE ISSUES

A few of the questions pertained to specific LASD policy issues---things like the use or misuse of red light cameras (most of the candidates were at least moderately for the cameras, with the exception of Gomez and Vince, who disliked the things), and what the candidates would do about issuing concealed weapons permits, or CCWs, which California's 58 county sheriffs and the state's police chiefs are authorized to grant,

The topic of CCWs has heated up in recent weeks following the decision last month by the 9th circuit Court of Appeals in which the court made it much easier to get the permits. (The 9th Circuit's ruling has been appealed to the US Supreme court.)

Paul Tanaka, who of the group has consistently been the strongest proponent for CCWs, talked about the Second Amendment. "I support that being able to possess a CCW is a right not a privilege."

McDonnell said he thought it prudent to wait to see what SCOTUS did in order to avoid future lawsuits, as did Olmsted, who added that he would require those to whom he granted CCWs to go through a rigorous certification and training equal to that of active deputies.

Lou Vince was another CCW enthusiast. "Right now the only people who have guns are the crooks," he said. "And that's just not fair."

Only Hellmold said that, in fact, he's in favor of anything that limits CCWs. "In 2005 when I arrived in Compton, there were over 400 shootings where our young men in Compton were struck by gunfire. I do not want more firearms in the street. If each of these candidates for the sake of perhaps getting the NRA to support them says that they would issue CCWs...how many hundreds of thousands of CCWs would you issue? Or are you just saying it for the for the soundbite? You know who it impacts? It impacts our young kids in some of the inner city areas...."

On other issues, Vince had a list of specifics as to how he'd lower the ever-problematic population of the LA County jails, including a pre-trial release risk assessment strategy that could help insure that people awaiting trial were not unnecessarily clogging the jail system simply due to an inability to pay their bail.

When it came to what kind of oversight the various candidates thought the department required, five of them described the various ways they embraced civilian oversight, whereas Gomez called the existing watchdogs, including the newly appointed inspector general, a waste of money. Tigers with no teeth. "[The IG] has no authority to do anything. So that’s a waste of taxpayer dollars,” he said.

As to who won the debate, in a quick poll of some of the council members found their opinions to be all over the place. They would have to wait and see, most said. But this was a good beginning.


PS: IF YOU WANT TO LISTEN TO ROGERS ON WHICH WAY LA? You can find the podcast here.


*Most of the candidates participated in a private forum last month organized by the LASD deputies’ union, ALADS (Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs).



AND IN OTHER NEWS….AN INTERVIEW WITH U.S. ATTORNEY ANDRE BIROTTE

The LA Times’ Patt Morrison interviewed US Attorney Andre Birotte, and it’s definitely something you’ll want to read.

Here are some relevant clips:

Do you expect more sheriff indictments?

The investigation is ongoing. We go where the evidence takes us.

Are all of those indicted going to trial?

This is high-stakes litigation. When we charge cases, we go in with the assumption that it’s going to trial. We make sure we dot our I’s, cross our Ts and say how is this going to play out to a jury?

Some deputies have volunteered information to your office. Why?

Some think it’s the right thing to do. I think there are some who thought these kinds of matters would not be looked at very seriously by other officials, and I’m speculating, but I gather there may be some who, once the indictments were announced, realized the government was serious and decided maybe it is time to come forward and tell the truth as to what they observed or may know.

Was any kind of deal discussed for or with then-Sheriff Lee Baca?

I can’t comment as [to how] it relates to Sheriff Baca’s sudden and unexpected [retirement]. We have an ongoing investigation; I can’t say more than that.

Read on!

Posted in 2014 election, FBI, LASD, U.S. Attorney | 32 Comments »

32 Responses

  1. Never a Dodger fan Says:

    Well, nothing has changed based on the photos. Just like the jail commission, Tanaka stacks his people in the back. They look like a bunch of bouncers. Well, I digressed a bit.

    Hellmold is adored by Baca. Baca handed out CCW’s to literally every advisory council member who had money and influence. Parked a black and white at a car dealership for a friend so it would look like a cop was there and allowed reserves to skate on investigations like hit and run in Beverly Hills, slinging his badge around at a Santa Monica Bar or not reporting a T/C to a unit supervisor when he rear ended a car on the freeway and tried to settle it with his personal insurance even though it was a county vehicle. Really? That’s the culture you want to continue?

    McDonnell is the next sheriff. And happily to say, there are many current former and current members who are itching to tell him where to dig first. I know I am. And yes, I do know him that well

  2. Stuff Says:

    I just want to know how Phil Spector landed a front row seat in Tanakas cheering section wearing a blond wig and blue velvet sweat suit?

  3. False facts Says:

    I agree with much of what One Response says except for the part about who will be the next Sheriff. It will be Olmsted. I say that because the citizens of Long Beach know not all is right on the Long Beach Police Department.; It wasn,t that many years ago the LASD had to patrol almost one half of Long Beach because they were so disfunctional and lacked approiate leadership. McDonnell is like any career politicion, he is just looking for the next step up to promote his political goal, maybe sect of home land securtiy, some position in the department of justice. He just wants to use the LASD as another feather in his cap.

  4. Searchlight Says:

    Stuff, you got a good laugh out of me. I will be rolling home from Hq with a smile on my face hoping my County phone doesn’t ring this weekend and everyone will be safe. Phil Spector, LOL !!!!!!

  5. The Past Says:

    False Facts: The last thing Olmsted needs is for an implied supporter putting out real false facts. The patrolling of North Long Beach by LASD preceded Chief McDonnell’s term as Chief by many years and had little to Department dysfunction & more to do with contract demands. LASD did a great Job but the police union & City Council found away to make peace.

  6. J.London Says:

    Another reason NOT to vote for McDonnell is that he will getting triple dipping if elected! Just another greedy politician!!

  7. Wild Turkey Says:

    I am so disappointed in Chuck Antuna. I’m not surprised, because I know where he came from, but it makes me sad to see him front and center for Tanaka the bully. The Antuna I worked with was always a sweet hearted man who cared about his troops.

  8. Investigative Mind Says:

    Just looking at the photo with Tanaka supporters, civilians and the ‘Phil Spector’ look alike; no one looks happy at all.

  9. CementHead4Tanaka.com Says:

    Free Phil Spector! Free Paul Tanaka (near future)! Victory for region 2! Defeat 4 the rest of the good for nothing Dept.! Everybody loves the Dodgers!! Haha Duval didn’t buy my domain name!!

  10. veritatem dies aperit Says:

    Does anybody find it ironic that some candidates “claim” to take the high road when they refuse to accept donations from department members?

    When Tanaka used to strong-arm deputies and pillage the village, people paid out of fear. When I worked at Carson Station, Todd Rogers would “finesse” the money out of deputies’ wallets for his Lakewood political machine, all with that creepy smile on his face.

    Paul and Todd had different tactics, but both did it on the backs of hard-working deputy sheriffs.

    “We could have 100 indictments, we could have 1,000 indictments, at the end of all of this, I’m going to be standing.” [Todd Rogers, January 16, 2014].

  11. Ron E Says:

    Celeste, is there any audio of the full debate.

  12. Jimmy Z Says:

    Interesting fact about Tanaka, his campaign Manager is Nicki Ung. She is the Executive Directer of the Chinese Business Chamber of Commerce. Now we know where alot of tall Paul’s money is coming from. I would love to see a forensic audit of all money brought to him from these groups, and then have it back tracked to the individual donors or businesses. Finally, lets take a look at these people and businesses. Or, did tall paul make sure all his donations have been laundered a few times. Don’t trust this guy or his campaign manager. Tanaka is a liar who is allowing 20 of his followers to swing.

  13. Wild Turkey Says:

    Jeff Steck is the new ALADS president, now that Armando Macias has been forced out. What is going on at our union?

    http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-deputies-union-installs-third-president-in-one-week-20140314,0,4091249.story#axzz2w6bVHC56

  14. Investigative Mind Says:

    Jimmy Z and Wild Turkey……now these are very important questions I wish someone would be able to answer honestly.

    In the past few weeks requests for forensic audit of financial records and allegations of money laundering keep being brought up.

  15. a clue! Says:

    Did somebody say money laundering? Here’s a direct quote from USA Andre Birotte’s interview with Pat.Morrison:

    “We use postal inspectors and the IRS more than we used to, because there’s often a money component that we can charge — tax charges, money laundering — that has stiff sentences. In the 1990s, it was very much siloed — the FBI did this, the D.A. did this. We’re working much more together now.”

    Funny how he also mentioned more people are coming forward to talk to his folks about what appear to be additional shenanigans heretofore untapped, not to mention the spectre of additional indictments. And, yeah, the DA’s Office has been awfully quiet. It’s a long road to June. For those hoping for less and perhaps the end, there certainly appears to be more. It’s kinda useless to handicap this election until all the facts are in. I know I’m not that smart. I’m just a plodder. Heck, outside the problems at the jail, it seems like there’s way too much fertile ground to plow.

  16. Frank Murphy Says:

    I think Armando wanted to give Paul union money and most of the board was against it. Just my thoughts from hearing from several reps. Also, the reps wanted Armando out.

  17. IthacaBoomer Says:

    The latest on ALADS. The ousted president had a pact to endorse a candidate. The softball serving forum held by ALADS was a sham. It was designed to protect certain candidates and was only held to satisfy the requirement. They always knew they’d never receive 51 percent of the surveys back, the number required to have a quorum (they’ve never received higher than 20%). It was an incredible waste of money. So the plan was to leave it to the directors to vote on the endorsement. They held a meeting and the president rolled hard at the group. He then found himself out in the parking lot brushing himself off. So now ALADS is in a state of disarray and will avoid an endorsement until after the primary. They’ll choose the obvious front runner and the rest is history. Sorry for those of you expecting more from ALADS. You should have done your homework or taken a closer look at who moderated the forum. Boomer

  18. The Past Says:

    Jimmy Z, Tanaka will have to show some his cards shorty with reporting requirements for money taken into to his election campaign.

  19. Jack Dawson Says:

    The former president of ALADS enjoyed a few trips on our dime. This isn’t the first time these guys have been told to be prudent with Deputies dues.

    I hope DS, FH, AM, and PT understand what is coming their way. You can’t do this to people and expect them to be quiet.

    Sounds like the levees continue to break in LASD.

  20. Riding in the Carson Car Says:

    It appears that Jimmy Z’s comment (#12) had a distinct odor of a racial undertone….I see racism is alive and well in this campaign. It sounds like Jimmy Z is saying that if you are a Chinese American or for that matter an Asian American they are all corrupt. I guess underlying bigoted comments are the only way to attack Tanaka’s campaign.

  21. Cowboy Says:

    FH, still attempting to run ALADS. Known fact that he made promises to Paul T. If he could keep his spot he would be in the car. His world was rocked when he lost the President spot in November. He could not get the 4th vote to get Steve R, old spot as director. Deputies will revolt if p.t. wins (not). F.H. does not get the clue. ALADS members will revolt and definitely go to LASPA, if the lost sheep try to get him back in. Why do you think he is still hanging on like a desperate man looking for recognition & power. This is a new dawning for ALADS & LASD. This time next year………I promise you. They both will be history!

  22. Huh! Says:

    @ithacaboomer: Are you a Unit Representative, if not, quit spreading your BS. I have, in fact, done my home work and learned the reason Mr. Macias was asked to leave was because he did not meet the requirement to be a Director. Call it what you will, but it appears he shot himself in the foot.

  23. Bobbi Says:

    Why in the heck does Commerce need a Chinese Business Chamber of Commerce?

  24. CrackerJack Says:

    TANAKA = PUTIN

    Will you fight the evil or capitulate? Don’t forget the leasons of history. Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

  25. gmanwhistle Says:

    Voters beware. Tanaka was the big reason we are in the current position. Captain Louie Duran, his side kick, was a failure at Aero Bureau, where there are investigations mounting. Remember it was Tanaka who would tell subordinates that the Sheriff was on a need to know basis and would screen a lot of info that was never forwarded to the Sheriff. He was also investigated for political corruption as Mayor of Gardena. He was living in Diamond Bar and skated on that one. This guy also has a Viking Tattoo and also had a secret society with a coin for selected few to use the barbeque area at Sheriff’s Headquarters. Everything smells about this guy. Mcdonnel would be a fresh start.

  26. Nobodies fool Says:

    @Cowboy,Ithacaboomer,Huh!: Cowboy is a straight shooter,, the rest of you have your info mixed up…Macias a board director was supposedly ousted for not attending rep meetings.. he’s not a rep.. he’s a board member-he doesn’t have to attend rep mtgs based on legal evidence .. he has to attend board meetings… this is an attempt by FH to take control of the board and install himself as a highly paid ex director to fill Steve Remiges’ shoes… none of this has to do with whose the next Sheriff… money is the root of all evil!

  27. LATBG Says:

    GManwhistle, we need an educated fresh start, not a blind one. Olmsted fits the bill, and McDonnell would be a viable second choice. All other candidates are tainted by corruption and/or close association with Baca. Vince and Gomez don’t fit that mold, but lack general qualifications for an office of that size and complexity.

    Carson car, your quote: “I guess underlying bigoted comments are the only way to attack Tanaka’s campaign.” No, how about just the plain truth as painstakingly documented and reported by the CCJV, the LA Times, the Daily News, LA Magazine, KFPC radio (Tanaka’s own words), the list is long and distinguished, and we haven’t even mentioned all the first-hand witnesses.

  28. veritatem dies aperit Says:

    LATBG- “….and McDonnell would be a viable second choice.”

    Reread your numerous past posts banging on McDonnell, now you call him a viable second choice? I knew you were a charlaton, now you’re just a plain lunatic.

  29. Huh! Says:

    @Nobodies Fool: apparently you are! I checked around and finally was able to access the Bylaws, which state something to the affect of, a Director who is seeking re-election has to follow the same criteria of that as a Unit Representative who is running for Director, which is attending 75 percent of the meetings for the two years, prior to the election. I believe I saw somewhere that Mr. Macias attended less than 50 percent. Sounds like he was lucky to have lasted this long!

    Of course it’s more entertaining for people to spin it into a conspiracy.

  30. LATBG Says:

    Veritatem, which you are far from, the math is pretty simple. Olmsted will kill the entire cancer, Rogers and Hellmold will allow many aspects of it to remain. Tanaka IS the cancer, and McDonnell is an empty slate. Choose, but choose wisely…

  31. Two guns Says:

    Corruption charges should be cast on ALADS. Remige, Hayhurst, and shinee, has a money trail somewhere. Millions have been spent. …on what is the ?

  32. Cowboy Says:

    Hey Huh!…..If all that is true, then why was he allowed on the ballot? You can’t get into Disney land for free and once you’re in, they can’t call you back, to pay more after you get on the matter horn. LOL. Another ploy by Floyd to become executive director of ALADS.

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