A private helipad built next to the LA County Sheriff's home was not permitted, but the department built it anyway, audit finds
- LASD built a helipad next to the
sheriff's house on a utility company's land.
- The department claimed they got "verbal permission" from the company via a former sheriff's deputy.
A helicopter pad built next to
"LASD could not provide any documentation of the approval or specifically identify the individuals who purportedly gave it, and SoCalGas expressly denied authorizing LASD to use or modify their property," the audit read.
It added: "The grading activity at the property was not permitted or approved and allegedly did not comply with municipal codes related to grading permits and erosion prevention."
The sheriff's department said the helipad was necessary for security reasons.
"In August of 2020, Major Crimes Bureau (MCB) personnel were tasked with conducting a security assessment of Sheriff Villanueva's residence in response to several credible threats, doxing incidents, and protestors targeting law enforcement officials at their personal residences," a memo from the MCB Captain Eddie Hernandez read.
"The activity was without the authorization or approval of SoCalGas, for which SoCalGas would be entitled to damages for trespass and inverse condemnation," Michelle Meghrouni, senior counsel at the utility company, wrote in a February 5, 2021, cease and desist letter to Rodrigo Castro-Silva of the Los Angeles County Counsel.
The utility company demanded that the county stop the helipad activity and requested a response.
On February 11, 2021, the captain of the Major Crimes Bureau responded with the 40-page memo claiming they'd received "verbal permission by SoCalGas and acted in good faith."
One instance of "verbal permission" came from J. Isaac Gonzalez, a former sheriff's deputy who works at the parent company of SoCalGas, in the form of a text message response to an LASD lieutenant asking if the helipad was possible, MCB claimed.
"Sounds easy," Gonzalez wrote.
The Bureau also wrote of other verbal instances of a green light in the memo.
The audit wrote that LASD said it would move forward in the future with acquiring required permits and "legally sufficient written authorization from owners of private property prior to engaging in construction on such property."
The Sheriff's Department told Insider, "The report confirms there was a breakdown in communication between the involved parties (LASD, Southern California Gas Company, and Century Paving Inc), and the Department agrees with the Auditor-Controller's recommendation to improve its contracting process."
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