The fallout from Wednesday’s search of Shelia Kuehl’s Santa Monica home by Sheriff’s deputies has both sides accusing the other of ethical violations. 

Kuehl’s home was searched along with the home of Patricia Giggans, the offices of the two women and Metro’s offices. The searches were connected to accusations that Kuehl influenced Metro to award a contract to Giggans’ nonprofit, Peace Over Violence, for operation of a sexual harassment hotline on Metro trains/buses. 

Kuehl has long denied any wrong doing and said the investigation was the result of a “fantasy” in the mind of a former Metro employee and that the Sheriff was using the accusations as way to intimidate his critics. 

“Make no mistake. Today’s search warrant is not motivated by a desire to get to the bottom of a Metro contract that dates from seven years ago,” she said in a statement after the search. “The process by which this contract was awarded never involved me and, indeed, the first I knew of it was an invite to a Metro press conference announcing it. The basis of this search was questionable and will be investigated. This morning’s storming of my home by deputies with bulletproof vests and tactical gear was an effort to harass, intimidate and retaliate against a public figure who has been an outspoken critic of LA County Sheriff Alex Villanueva. I am not the only such critic, and other courageous County leaders have also been the targets of this Sheriff’s vindictiveness.”

Kuehl said the search was a thuggish attempt to intimidate and silence her by a department plagued with lawsuits. 

“As a Supervisor, I have insisted that the Sheriff take steps to reduce deputy-involved shootings, meaningfully address the existence of known gangs in his department, cooperate with the Office of the Inspector General in its investigations, comply with subpoenas issued to elicit needed information about the department, appear before the County’s Civilian Oversight Commission to address community concerns, and, like the heads of more than 30 other County departments, to operate within a balanced budget,”

However, the Sheriff issued a letter on Wednesday accusing other county officials of undermining his investigation by leaking existence of the search warrants in advance of their delivery. Sheriff Alex Villanueva has requested California Attorney General Rob Bonta open an investigation into alleged leaks of the search warrant. 

In his letter, Villanueva said when the search warrant was served on the Giggans’’ residence, the detectives were met at the door by Ms. Giggans and her attorney. He also said that in a statement outside her house, Kuehl said she had been forewarned of the search by a representative from the County Counsel’s office and Los Angeles County Inspector General Max Huntsman. 

“I do not have to explain the alleged criminal, administrative and ethical laws which were broken by Mr. Huntsman and the currently unidentified person(s) employed by County Counsel,” said the letter. “We are confident phone records will soon reveal any text messages received by Ms. Kuehl and Ms. Giggans, which illegally alerted them to the search warrant as well as the intent behind their actions.”

The Sheriff is asking for charges of obstruction, disclosing a search warrant and conspiracy be considered plus violations of the County’s duty to oversee its employees. 

“The illegal acts committed by Mr. Huntsman and County Counsel have potentially compromised the integrity of this criminal investigation including but not limited to, the concealment or destruction of evidence.”

Following the search, Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascon said his office had already rejected charges over the investigation and would not defend the Sheriff’s actions. 

“The allegation was investigated by LASD & submitted for filing consideration in September 2021. We reviewed the case and determined that the state of the evidence at that time did not prove criminal conduct beyond a reasonable doubt,” he said on social media. “LASD indicated that they would continue to investigate. We have not had additional contact on the matter and were not consulted or aware of the search warrants that were served today. In this case, because we did not review the warrant beforehand, we do not intend to defend it if challenged in court.”

Prior to issuing the letter to Bonta, the Sheriff’s department said the investigation was ongoing and they would not provide additional details regarding the status of the investigation.

editor@smdp.com