Los Angeles

Sheriff's Move to Old Digs Raises Eyebrows

Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva says his eighth-floor executive office complex at the Hall of Justice in downtown has proved to be inconvenient, so he's relocating to a second office in Monterey Park.

Villanueva says he plans to keep the Hall of Justice office open but will do his job from the old Sheriff's headquarters building on Ramona Boulevard just south of the 10 Freeway.

According to Sheriff's Department work orders and expense reports obtained by NBC4 under the California Public Records Act, by the end of January 2019 efforts to remodel the second office had cost more than $240,000, with another $24,000 spent on furniture and accessories.

"It's outrageous," said former LA County Supervisor Don Knabe. "I can't even conceive of why that would happen."

Knabe said he and his former colleagues spent decades working to assemble the funding needed to rebuild the historic Hall of Justice building after it was severely damaged in the Northridge Earthquake.

The funding package included millions of dollars from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, according to the County.

"That was the whole purpose, to do it right, and to do it right, that's what took so long," Knabe said.

Villanueva told NBC4 the Hall of Justice headquarters office is difficult to use because there isn't enough parking, and sometimes visitors have a tough time getting into downtown.

"Actually it's a burden for people to come visit, just to do whatever business they have," he said. "It's very difficult, it's very difficult for visitors to come here. It's not user friendly."

The Sheriff said he would maximize the use of both offices, and promised any money spent to remodel the satellite office would be more than made-up for, with savings he finds by consolidating other operations.

"From the taxpayer perspective, they're not going to be at any lossl, no wasted effort to refurbish this building," Villanueva said.

The records show the remodeling project at the hold headquarters building began within weeks of Villanueva taking office.

Tasks included projects to repair a roof leak, installation of new lighting, locks, and security cameras, and an extensive bathroom upgrade.

A County expense report showed furniture purchased for the project, called, "Sheriff's Suite Renovation," included $9,131.76 for a, "lounge chair and corner table," $2,451.61 for a, "Monaco," executive chair, and $2,378.09 for a Whirlpool refrigerator.

Villanueva said those items were consistent with purchases for other County executives.

"They match what was already purchased, purchased numerous times for previous executives. We have repeated the same purchasing pattern from the past, we haven't deviated from that."

Knabe said the Sheriff had campaigned on a promise to be a better caretaker of the Department's enormous budget, and this second office project didn't seem to match up. "He campaigned on putting more deputies back in the streets," Knabe said. "You don't need expensive chairs and a rebuild to put more deputies in the streets."

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