Michael Rothans

Assistant Sheriff Michael Rothans, third from left, is retiring after an investigation was launched into his purchase of a stolen vehicle. (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

Cindy Chang
October 13, 2015

A top-ranking Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department official has abruptly announced his retirement amid an internal investigation into his purchase of a stolen Audi sedan from a tow-yard owner with a department contract.

Assistant Sheriff Michael Rothans’ decision to retire put a quick end to what would have been one of Sheriff Jim McDonnell’s biggest tests in dealing with allegations of misconduct by a high-ranking official.

McDonnell was elected last year after a series of scandals that resulted in criminal charges against numerous officials, including the agency’s former No. 2. McDonnell has vowed to take a tough stand on disciplinary matters, though it’s unclear what role, if any, he played in Rothans’ retirement.

The investigation, which began Oct. 1 after The Times inquired about the car, will continue, said Cmdr. Keith Swensson, a department spokesman, even though the sheriff no longer has to decide whether to discipline Rothans.

“The outcome was decided by Mike when he decided to retire,” Swensson said. “That said, there is no question that the sheriff holds everyone accountable at every rank equally.”

The investigation may still prove useful by providing guidance for other sheriff’s officials, Swensson said. If there is evidence that any crimes were committed, the case will be forwarded to the district attorney’s office.

“What we’re hoping is we find any errors that the department has made so we can correct it, so anything in the future won’t happen again,” Swensson said.

Rothans, 53, who is stepping down two years before he would be eligible for full retirement benefits, has denied any wrongdoing. He made a base salary of more than $240,000 a year. Last week, he requested and was granted a paid leave of absence, so he will not return to work before his retirement date.

In an email to colleagues on Monday, Rothans said he is retiring on Oct. 26 because of long-term health issues “that have recently been exacerbated and need to be addressed.”

“My focus in the future will be on my family,” he wrote. “I have been privileged to work in this great organization for close to 32 years and will miss all of you.”

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