San Fernando police chief put on leave in ticket-fixing probe
The acting police chief in San Fernando has been placed on leave after the city launched an investigation into whether he tried to a fix a traffic ticket that had been given to an aide to a local congressman.
Lt. Jeff Eley was removed from his post Jan. 19 after a video surfaced on YouTube showing an officer handing a running-a-stop-sign citation to Fred Anthony Flores, an aide to Rep. Howard Berman (D-Valley Village).
The Nov. 23 ticket did not arrive at the courthouse in time for a Jan. 4 hearing, said City Manager Al Hernandez. The citation was dismissed by the court Jan. 13.
The video, which comes with dramatic music and opening titles such as “Deception” and “Corruption,” apparently was copied from a video camera attached to the officer’s squad car.
The ticket incident is just the latest bit of drama to hit the small San Fernando Valley city.
The city’s 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.
The ticket episode has quickly divided ranks in City Hall and, at the request of city officials and Eley himself, is now being investigated by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, which has been asked to find out what happened to the congressional aide’s citation and who leaked the video onto YouTube.
An official in the police union said Eley has been ordered not to discuss the issue publicly.
Asked about the incident, Flores replied in an email: "When I was stopped for this traffic ticket I made an attempt to give the officer my new and correct address. I never asked the acting chief of police to do anything with this ticket."
Police union leaders in San Fernando said the traffic ticket 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.”
Mayor Mario Hernandez, a lightning rod for criticism himself since his public disclosure, said he believes 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