Frank Girardot and I pieced this together from interviews we did over the course of the week….
LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department is reexamining how it collects towing fees in response to allegations a former traffic sergeant took nearly $500,000 from the city of La Puente in impound revenues, officials said.
“We are doing that now,” Sheriff’s spokesman Steve Whitmore said. “We are probably going to go to a cashless system. Using something like an ATM card to make it more difficult for theft to occur.”
Whitmore also said the department is reviewing several other internal policies and will consult with the Board of Supervisors.
Former Sgt. Joe Dyer, who used to work out of the Industry sheriff’s station until he retired in May, has been under investigation since the beginning of the year.
Officials believe he was collecting towing fees intended for La Puente, but not turning over all of those fees to the city.
“Let’s just say that this has been a wake up call for the department,” said Michael Gennaco, chief attorney for the Office of Internal Review.
The OIR is an independent agency that reviews alleged policy violations within the Sheriff’s Department. They are aware of the allegations against Dyer and expect to receive a copy of the case once it is submitted to the District Attorney.
Sheriff Lee Baca said last week he expected to submit the case by the end of the year.
“It’s still an ongoing investigation,” Whitmore said. “But once it’s done we will seek a prosecution.”
There was one other case within the department involving mishandled tow fees, Sheriff’s spokesman Steve Whitmore said.
The incident took place in 2007 and involved a deputy in Compton who was disciplined with a 10-day suspension after failing to follow the department’s money handling procedures, Whitmore said.
“There was no evidence of any funds missing,” Whitmore said. “Apparently he was not doing the paperwork properly. There was no money involved.”
The incident is chronicled in the OIR quarterly report released earlier this year.
Apparently, the sheriff’s may not be the only ones taking making changes. La Puente is also looking at its own internal cash-handling procedures.
I’ve been attempting to talk to interim City Manager Frank Tripepi about it, but he hasn’t called me back in a week.