It's always disgraceful when a politician uses the power of office to do special favors for big campaign donors, but when those favors involve criminal probes by people carrying guns and badges, it's even more outrageous. Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca appears to have crossed that line.
Times staff writer Robert Faturechi reported Monday that Baca sent a note to his chief of detectives asking him to investigate a routine lease dispute in the city of Beverly Hills, which is outside the sheriff's normal jurisdiction. It was a highly unusual move; law enforcement agencies typically only cross jurisdictional lines when they're invited to do so, and the Beverly Hills Police Department had already dismissed the case as a matter for the civil courts. It's probably not coincidental that the dispute involved one of Baca's longtime donors, Ezat Delijani, who has contributed thousands of dollars to Baca and regularly sends the sheriff expensive gifts such as fine wines and spirits. Delijani has acknowledged that he personally spoke to Baca about his dispute with a tenant who was demanding payment for improvements the tenant made to Delijani's building.
This isn't the first time Baca has been accused of giving special treatment to VIPs and donors. In 1999, he was obliged to stop giving guns and badges to a "celebrity" reserve unit after two members were arrested, but he continued to give out Sheriff's Department photo IDs to political donors until controversy erupted over the practice in 2006.