Baca asks Sheriff’s Department watchdog to examine his handling of donor’s case
Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca asked his department’s watchdog Tuesday to review his handling of a case in which he was accused of giving preferential treatment to a long-time supporter who has donated to the sheriff’s political campaigns and given him expensive gifts.
Baca wants the Office of Independent Review to consider guidelines that would help him decide how to handle requests for investigations brought directly to his attention, including pleas from donors, celebrities and friends.
The request comes in response to a Times investigation showing that Baca personally directed detectives to go outside his agency’s jurisdiction to open a criminal investigation on behalf of Ezat Delijani, a Beverly Hills businessman.
Michael Gennaco, who heads up the Office of Independent Review, said his agency would use the Delijani case as a platform for considering new guidelines that could limit the perception of favoritism in cases brought to Baca.
On Monday, Gennaco said he did not intend to investigate the case, adding that he thought setting guidelines for launching criminal investigations on behalf of political donors might be impractical.
“I’m still saying that,” Gennaco said Tuesday about such guidelines. “It may end up just too difficult trying to draw these lines. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t look at it and try.”
Gennaco said that there are some situations where favors for high-profile individuals can be violations of department policy, including expunging a ticket and unfairly reducing jail time.
Sheriff’s spokesman Steve Whitmore said Baca, who is on a trip to the Middle East, called him with the request because “he has nothing to hide.” “He’s accountable to the public,” Whitmore said. “He doesn’t want even the perception of impropriety.”
Whitmore said that Baca does not believe he did anything improper. Department policy is to be “responsive to victims,” Whitmore said, and if Baca was asked to launch the Delijani case again, “he would do it again.”
In that case, sheriff's detectives investigated lease-forgery allegations against a tenant of Delijani’s. The case was assigned “rush” status and was initiated after the Beverly Hill Police Department had concluded it was a civil matter.
-- Robert Faturechi
Photo: Beverly Hills business magnate Ezat Delijani, left, and Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca attend a ceremony formally dedicating the corner of 7th Street and Broadway in L.A. as Ezat Delijani Square.