SHERIFF’S DEPARTMENT LEGAL COSTS RISING — $12.6 MILLION AND COUNTING
At a recent Board of Supervisors meeting, we highlighted how legal expenses in the county’s Sheriff Department cost tens of millions of dollars each year. The Sheriff’s litigation expenses for fiscal year 2011-12 rose to over $37 million. That doesn’t even include lawyer’s fees – just settlement payouts! This is money that could have gone to vital public services. In just the first six months of fiscal year 2012-13, the Sheriff’s Dept.’s legal costs already amount to over $25 million – leading some members of the board to fear a pattern of spending without accountability and, possibly, the need for new leadership.
Supervisor Molina said, “I have been told continuously that these things are being put in place, that these reforms are going on. And when we look at the issue of resources, which is what they all will come up and say, ‘well, you don’t give us enough money, the department needs more money. And there is no doubt that we should probably look at those issues. I’m not going to discount what the Blue Ribbon Commission told us in their report about having to supplement. And I’m prepared and willing to do it. I have to look at those numbers because I’m not going to just give the sheriff or any department a bucket of money until I have accountability attached to it. From now on accountability is where I’m going on all these things. I don’t have the confidence of what’s going on.” She continued, “If you look at the issues of resources, let me point out to a couple of numbers to the gentleman who said he doesn’t have enough money. I don’t know if you looked at what we have paid as taxpayers when it comes to the issue of liability. In 2011-2012, this county paid a grand total of $37 million in liability. And that doesn’t include the legal cost. Those were just the payouts of settlements. That is money that would have gone well into training, into resources and other kinds of issues.” She further continued, “And, again, we have to be prepared because there are issues in which we must defend our deputies, the actions that they take and the responsibilities that they carry out. And they lay their life out for. And I am prepared to do so as a member of this board. But when you hear some of the things that some of these deputies have done and how we need to continue to pay them while we’re investigating for a year, two years, maybe three years, it is shameful. And I know that many of you as deputies don’t want to stand behind those kinds of deputies, either, and would like to see them rolled out as much as possible, but this process is cumbersome. I can’t even get the latest data on the settlements. I’m still trying to accumulate the data for this year. But just to let you know that in fiscal year 2012-2013, just in the first six months of the latest data that we have, this county paid $25 million in six months in liability. And we do it all behind closed doors because we have to. We have a duty and a responsibility to protect our deputies, to protect our department. But I really think it’s time, Mr. Chairman, and members, that we take this to a citizen’s commission. And maybe we can get the kind of unearthing of this bureaucracy to be responsive and to create the kind of department that’s first class that L.A. County deserves.”