San Fernando chief personally asked that aide's ticket be dismissed
The acting police chief in San Fernando personally asked the courts to dismiss a running-a-stop-sign citation that one of his officers had issued to a local congressional aide, court records show.
Lt. Jeff Eley was put on leave last week after authorities launched an investigation into whether the acting chief had tried to fix the ticket issued to Fred Anthony Flores, an aide to Rep. Howard Berman (D-Valley Village).
The ticket incident became a spectacle in the small San Fernando Valley city after a video surfaced on YouTube showing a patrol officer handing a citation to the congressional aide.
The video is accompanied by dramatic music and titles such as “corruption” and “deception.” It suggests that Eley make the ticket “disappear” after getting a call from Flores and that the citations handed to four other motorists that morning made their way to the courthouse promptly.
The YouTube posting was apparently copied from a video shot from the camera mounted on the officer’s squad car. The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department has been asked to investigate the incident to determine how the video got onto YouTube.
Eley declined to comment, but police union leaders in San Fernando said the ticket incident is a ploy by a council majority to silence their critics and asked that Eley be reinstated immediately. They condemned the YouTube video as "slanderous and defaming."
Eley requested that the Nov. 23 ticket be dismissed in the “interests of justice,” court records show.
“There were conflicting statements made between the officer and the violator, therefore, in the interest of justice I (acting chief) J. Eley am requesting that this citation be dismissed,” the acting chief wrote in a court document.
The next day, a San Fernando Superior Court commissioner dismissed the ticket.
The citation had languished at the Police Department for weeks, making its way to the courthouse only after the hearing date for the ticket had come and gone.
The court spokeswoman said San Fernando police walked in the request to a traffic commissioner in San Fernando, even thought traffic matters for the city had been transferred to a court in Chatsworth.
Officials with the San Fernando Police Officers Assn. said nothing crooked occurred and that Eley had the ticket on his desk because the congressional aide and the officer disagreed about the issue and he was seeking to resolve it.
An official with the police union said Eley took the action to seek the dismissal after consulting with the city manager and city attorney’s office.
In an email, the congressional aide said he did not ask for special treatment.
"When I was stopped for this traffic ticket I made an attempt to give the officer my new and correct address," he wrote. "I never asked the acting chief of police to do anything with this ticket."
The ticket brouhaha is just the latest bit of drama to unfold in the city. The mayor made national news last month when he announced during a council meeting -- as his wife sat in the front row -- that he was having an affair with one of his council colleagues.
That news arrived on the heels of other City Hall scandals, including a teenage cadet claiming she had been fired for having an affair with a former police chief and an accusation that a councilwoman was having a relationship with a police sergeant.
Mayor Mario Hernandez, a lightning rod for criticism himself since his public disclosure, said he believes that an investigation into the acting chief's action is warranted. "I'm concerned," Hernandez said. "How many other favors were done, for whomever?"
-- Richard Winton
Photo: San Fernando Mayor Mario Hernandez. Credit: Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times