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|Sheriff's Department Accused Of Overpaying Contractor|
|Written by San Fernando Valley Sun|
|Thursday, 29 March 2012 02:30|
LOS ANGELES (CNS) -- Los Angeles County sheriff's officials are refuting allegations they overpaid a contractor nearly $11 million for unneeded aircraft equipment or work and accused the sergeant who made the claims of using a sheriff's helicopter to ferry relatives from Los Angeles International Airport.
An internal report obtained by the Los Angeles Times recommended that supervisors in the Aero Bureau be investigated for potential conflicts of interest and violations of county purchasing rules. Aero Bureau supervisors, the report stated, allowed the Carlsbad-based Hangar One to bill for unjustified expenses while outfitting a fleet of helicopters.
Sheriff's officials paid for 3,888 hours of work on each aircraft. Compared to industry standards, that's eight times more man-hours than needed, according to the memo cited by The Times.
"This per aircraft amount cannot be justified," sheriff's Sgt. Richard Gurr wrote in the report, calling the charges "extremely excessive."
But Aero Bureau Capt. Louis Duran told the Board of Supervisors on March 27 that "we've got nothing to hide," and said the three people, who were involved in the contract, including Gurr, have since been removed from the unit.
Duran said Gurr was "very disgruntled" because he was transferred after he was caught using a department helicopter for unofficial business.
Duran himself has been accused – in a suit brought by retired Lt. Edison Cook – of improperly using aircraft to attend out-of-state meetings.
While addressing the board, Duran was cut short by county attorney John Krattli, who suggested that any further discussion of the subject be held in private because of a pending lawsuit.
Sheriff Lee Baca said the county's auditor-controller had already cleared the department of wrongdoing. Baca read from a memo by the auditor-controller that concluded, "based on our review, we did not substantiate the alleged improprieties."
Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky said that inspection was too limited and called for a broader investigation.
Auditor-controller Wendy Watanabe agreed, saying her report focused on the contracting process and didn't include issues raised by The Times.
According to the department report cited by The Times, Aero Bureau officials also allegedly purchased unneeded special equipment from Hangar One, spending almost $500,000, for example, on 42 night-vision goggles when the dozen they already had were "sufficient to support any LASD mission."
Aero Bureau officials made six-figure purchases without the required approval of the Board of Supervisors, the memo says.
"They have purposely bypassed the established purchasing code protocols," it states, according to the Times. "LASD Aero Bureau managers have potentially violated numerous L.A. County Codes and Guidelines."
Because the issue was a last-minute matter not on the Board of Supervisors' agenda, the board cannot formally request an audit until its next meeting. Watanabe said she would need 30 days from the date of the board's approval to complete an audit.