It’s been a tumultuous relationship at best. Los Angeles Sheriff Alex Villanueva and Third District Los Angeles County Supervisor Shiela Kuehl have been adversaries from the get-go when Villanueva was elected in late 2018. The outgoing supervisor has been one of Villanueva’s sharpest critics and has called for his resignation on numerous occasions over charges of mishandling the department, alleged deputy gangs, and the rehiring of previously dismissed deputies who had been accused of domestic violence. Kuehl now says the early morning raid on her home on Sept. 14 was payback from her adversary after their long-simmering feud.
LACO Sheriff’s deputies banged on the door of Kuehl’s Santa Monica home at 7 a.m. and escorted the still barefoot 81-year-old out of her home Wednesday morning. In footage, the supervisor looks exasperated as she throws up her hands in disbelief at what she called a “swarm” of deputies who seized her phone and other records. The LASD carried out a search warrant that the supervisor called suspect in a corruption investigation against her. The probe alleges Kuehl funneled an $800,00 no-bid contract to a friend’s nonprofit. That nonprofit, Peace Over Violence, was awarded a contract to provide a sexual harassment reporting hotline for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Peace Over Violence is run by Kuehl’s good friend Patti Giggans. Her home and offices were also raided Wednesday morning. Giggans also sits on the Sheriff Civilian Oversight Commission, to which she was appointed by Kuehl. She too, is a strong critic of Villanueva.
The investigation is looking into bribery allegations against Kuehl, claiming that campaign donations from Giggans were given in return for the hotline contract. Kuehl said she was unaware of the contract saying, “I didn’t know they had such a contract.” However, Giggans is a close friend of the supervisor, raising questions auto the credibility of that statement.
The District Attorney’s office issued a statement saying it was presented evidence gathered by the Sheriff’s department last year on the Peace Over Violence contract and asked to file criminal charges. Prosecutors said there was not enough evidence to do so. The DA’s office also claimed it was not consulted on the warrants and that the office would not intend to defend it if challenged in court.
Critics have called the operation of the sexual harassment hotline wasteful, claiming that of 1,300 calls in three years, only a few were legitimate calls, the others being misdials or hangups.
Kuehl claims the Sheriff’s search of her home will only yield “a few cat videos.” She called the Sheriff’s department “out of control” and the raid “frightening,” adding “it’s harassment.”
Villanueva is running for reelection in November. Kuehl is retiring from the Board of Supervisors.