August 27, 2020

On August 26, 2020, I became aware of a demand letter written on behalf of County of Los Angeles CEO, Sachi Hamai, by her attorney Skip Miller (who also represents the Board of Supervisors in multiple ongoing matters). The anonymous letter outlined a proposed settlement in the amount of $1.5 million to be paid to Sachi Hamai upon her departure as Chief Executive Officer (CEO). The reason for the settlement was described as “combat pay” resulting from a valid and legitimate policy disagreement during a department head conference call with more than 40 other people listening. As described, this act constituted the appearance of a possible “gift of public funds.” This, compounded with the optics of corruption created from the process allegedly occurring behind closed doors and outside of the public eye, compelled me to immediately forward the information to the appropriate oversight entities.

Every taxpayer in Los Angeles County should be infuriated upon hearing the CEO is getting $1.5M handed to her and demand the following questions be answered:

• How is it not a conflict of interest for County contract attorney Skip Miller to have represented both the CEO and the Board in the same transaction?
•Was an initial complaint ever filed by the CEO putting the Board on notice of this alleged “hostile work environment?” Were the proper channels followed for reporting and investigation? What was the outcome of the investigation?
•Was an actual “Claim for Damages” ever filled by the CEO?
•Was an actual lawsuit ever filed by the CEO?
•Over the last 30 years, how many $1.5M+ settlements were awarded by the Board, based on an unproven allegation and zero litigation or Court action?
•Some would describe this as a backdoor way to give someone a “golden handshake” after they leave their position. Has this ever happened for other similar allegations? What proof exists to justify $1.5M?
•In addition to the $1.5M, the CEO has also demanded to receive full-time security for the next few years; how much will this cost taxpayers and what does that entail?

This news comes during a time when the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and other County Departments are facing major budget cuts that will result in huge layoffs.

I have vocally opposed the CEO’s actions because she has underfunded our budget, defunded our Department, and is presently recommending the layoff of 745 public safety employees. Yet I am rejecting the CEO’s plan, as I know there are other options which do not result in layoffs. As Sheriff, I was elected to fight for what is right, not for what is politically favorable.

Our Department is currently dealing with managing a catastrophic budget reduction and may face future layoffs. This is being done while dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, fires throughout LA County, an increased murder rate, and on-going civil unrest.

Settling CEO Hamai’s allegations without a legitimate inquiry, bypassing standard procedure, gives the appearance of an illegal gift of public funds. A possible gift for someone who last year earned $684,704 in salary and benefits. A possible gift for someone whose early retirement is occurring far before the optimal retirement age.

The County should have allowed CEO Hamai’s case to run its course in a court of law, in order for the public to have learned about the facts of the case, just like they have in the past and will continue to do so in the future.

This appears to be a gross mismanagement of tax payer dollars during a pandemic where millions of Southern Californians are struggling to pay their rent, keep their healthcare insurance, maintain a job, and more importantly survive the COVID-19 pandemic. We should be working together to find ways to better serve the citizens of Los Angeles County and not allowing cuts to law enforcement that will damage the service and security to the citizens for years to come.

Sheriff Alex Villanueva