Report: L.A. County Sheriff Awards Carry Permits to Friends, Donors
Public records show Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca, who is known for being stingy with concealed-weapons permits in an anti-gun jurisdiction, may be giving out permits disproportionately to his friends and political supporters and donors.
L.A. Weekly obtained public records for all of the 341 active concealed-weapons permits in addition to the 123 applications for permits that were denied over the last 18 months. The records show that of all the people who were denied a permit, only one had contributed to Baca. Baca's friends and campaign donors disproportionately make up the list of those who have active permits.
Some well-known permit holders include Judge Lance Ito, L.A. County Supervisor Michael Antonovich, and broadcast executive Norm Pattiz.
According to the report, a closer examination of the records reveal "more than two dozen people who have given gifts or campaign contributions to the sheriff also have gun permits." In addition, "more than one out of every 10 permits issued to civilians went to people on Baca's gift list." Further, several people who were in Baca's wedding also have permits, according to the records.
Permit holders include:
- Emerson Glazer: the son of the man who developed the Del Amo Fashion Center mall in Torrance, gave Baca "basketball tickets and gift baskets."
- Stan Shuster: the owner of a cigar room, gave Baca "shirts and golf balls."
- Michael Yamaki: "is among Baca's best friends."
- George Chilingar: gave Baca $750 worth of Persian rugs.
- Hollywood producer Arnold Kopelson: "gave Baca ballet tickets in 2004"
- Singer James Darren: "gave Baca some CDs and a photograph."
- Jeweler Nagapet Boyadgian: "gave Baca a $500 contribution in 2010."
- Arthur Kassel: "hosted a birthday party for Baca."
According to records, L.A. County, with a population of nearly 2 million people, only had 341 people with concealed-weapons permits. Meanwhile, Kern County, with a population of 800,000 people, had 3,564 permit holders.
Chuck Michel, described as a "a gun-rights attorney who has pushed for greater access to concealed-weapons permits," told L.A. Weekly that anti-gun jurisdictions like Los Angeles are "corrupted by favoritism and cronyism."
The favoritism may be evident in the number of Level III reserve deputies who have been awarded permits despite substandard exam coursework. Level III reserves are not allowed to make arrests and do things like "traffic control and parade safety." The records show that all six reserves who received a permit also just happened to donate to Baca.
Yet, despite calls for more transparency, Baca has refused to release records detailing why some residents were denied permits, even though they applied after receiving death threats.
Sheriff Department spokesperson Steve Whitmore denied the charges of cronyism and favoritism.
"There's no link whatsoever," Whitmore told the publication. "He's very stingy when he gives those out. [Giving gifts] has nothing to do with it."