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Friday, January 31, 2014

Interim LA Sheriff suspends civilian deputy program

ABC 7Eyewitness News has learned the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department is suspending its controversial "field deputy" program.

On his first day as interim sheriff, John Scott is suspending the civilian field deputy program and launching an official inquiry into possible misuse of county funds following an Eyewitness News investigation.

"There are concerns, so Sheriff Scott needs time, and that's why he has the inquiry being conducted, so that he knows where he's going to take it from here," said L.A. Sheriff's Captain Mike Parker.

The news comes one day after an Eyewitness News investigation raised questions about the $171,000 salary of retiring Field Deputy Michael Yamaki.

Yamaki was a senior civilian advisor to former Sheriff Lee Baca. Yamaki had no sheriff's department office, no phone line, and appeared to spend work days at the exclusive Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades. Yamaki is also a longtime friend of Baca and loaned him $20,000 in his first campaign for sheriff. Eyewitness News filed a Public Records Act request asking for Yamaki's work calendars and a description of his job. We were told that neither of those things exists.

Yamaki has been identified in numerous articles as the "general manager", "managing corporate officer" and "chief executive" of the Riviera, where the initiation fee is reported to be around $250,000. However, sheriff's department spokesperson Steve Whitmore told Eyewitness News that Yamaki's only job was with the LA County Sheriff's Department. Whitmore says that Yamaki has never been an employee at the Riviera and does not receive a salary, but that he is an investor at the club .

Yamaki's job with the L.A. County Sheriff's Department came with a county car, which we spotted driving into and out of the Riviera Country Club on three occasions. On yet another day, we spotted Yamaki driving that same county car to another country club, this one in Valencia.

Michael Yamaki refused to speak with Eyewitness News for our story, but we learned through public records that of the $120,000 worth of gifts that Sheriff Baca accepted during his tenure, there are nine rounds of golf paid for by Yamaki, most at the Riviera Country Club. continue reading...

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