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Demoted L.A. County executive on paid medical leave

Sharon Harper, who was demoted after auditors found that she had improperly helped her son-in-law obtain a county job, has yet to report to her new position in the Sheriff's Department.

January 12, 2010|By Garrett Therolf

Sharon Harper, demoted last year from Los Angeles County's second-highest executive job, has been on paid medical leave since November and has yet to report to her new job in the Sheriff's Department, according to county officials.

Harper was forced out of her $260,000-a-year job less than two weeks after The Times reported that county auditors found that she had improperly helped her son-in-law obtain a county job that was "overcompensated" by nearly $1,000 a month.

The fight over Harper's demotion now shows signs of heading to civil court, with the recent denial of her appeal clearing the way for her to file a lawsuit against her employer. At the same time, revelations are emerging that Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky requested and received a security detail late last year as the situation grew increasingly tense.

Harper, a county employee since 1972, had risen through the ranks to become the top deputy to the county executive nine years ago.

The Times' publication of details from the confidential report, which the newspaper obtained after county counsel denied a public records request, produced rancor in the county Hall of Administration.

William T Fujioka, her boss, demoted her in early November and assigned her to become a sheriff's division chief -- a job she had previously held -- at a salary of $178,000.

Amid discussion of possible disciplinary action, Harper requested and was granted paid medical leave, citing stress and high blood pressure, according to a source familiar with her appeal.

The fight over her ouster became so bitter and personal that Yaroslavsky requested that the Sheriff's Department assign a special security detail to him, according to two sources familiar with the situation.

Yaroslavsky -- who some county insiders speculated had pushed behind the scenes for Harper's ouster -- told sheriff's officials that he believed Harper's husband, Jerry, might pose a threat to him.

Jerry Harper is a former Los Angeles County undersheriff who retired last year as the chief probation officer for San Bernardino County. For two weeks, Sheriff Lee Baca assigned a plainclothes security detail to the supervisor, the sources said.

Jerry Harper's picture was also distributed among security personnel at the Hall of Administration, the sources said.

The security precautions were lifted after sheriff's deputies interviewed Harper and determined that he posed no threat, the sources said.

Yaroslavsky declined to comment on the matter, and the Harpers did not return a detailed message left last week at Jerry Harper's business.

Said Sheriff's Sgt. Steve Wheatcroft, who oversees protection for the supervisors: "At this time, we don't have any additional security for Zev above and beyond what we do for the other supervisors."

garrett.therolf

@latimes.com

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