LA County Seal

After William T Fujioka, above in 2012, retired two years ago, the L.A. County Board of Supervisors hired an outside consultant to look into the former chief executive’s real estate dealings and other county business, a document and sources reveal.

Adam Elmahrek
October 29, 2016

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors secretly launched a public corruption investigation of its former Chief Executive William T Fujioka shortly after his retirement two years ago, examining his role in real estate dealings, a multimillion-dollar emergency communications project and other county business, according to a document obtained by The Times and officials familiar with the probe.

County officials have refused to discuss the details of the investigation, or specify how much the probe cost. They hired an outside consultant to do the work, but shielded the contract, billings and a report behind assertions that those documents are protected by attorney-client privilege.

At the request of the board, the county’s consultant — the downtown law firm Paul Hastings LLP — requested a meeting with the district attorney’s Public Integrity Division to spark a criminal probe, according to a letter obtained by The Times under the state’s Public Records Act. The district attorney “concluded there was no basis for a criminal investigation,” a spokeswoman said.

Fujioka denied any wrongdoing, but declined to respond to the details of the investigation. He said he was “glad the DA found no merit to these allegations” and said the probe was among a string of political attacks against him orchestrated by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. Other examples included the ouster of high-ranking executives viewed as too close to him, Fujioka said.

Ridley-Thomas declined to discuss the investigation, but said in a statement: “The Board of Supervisors took necessary action to maintain accountability and transparency as elected officials serving the residents of Los Angeles County. No employee —department head or otherwise — is above scrutiny. It was simply the right thing for the Board to do.”

Other supervisors declined to respond or deferred to county lawyers. In a statement emailed to The Times, County Counsel Mary Wickham said the investigation was necessary “based on the information that was made known to the board.” She did not disclose what that information was.

The county investigation by Paul Hastings was launched in late 2014 after the collapse of a $38-million deal to purchase a building in Monterey Park known as the Saturn Property. The county needed to move employees out of dilapidated buildings in Koreatown, and Fujioka had proposed buying the property as a solution.

But Fujioka’s handling of the transaction raised red flags, according to the letter by Paul Hastings attorney Thomas O’Brien. Sources familiar with the probe said Ridley-Thomas and other supervisors were particularly alarmed when Fujioka waived the vetting period in which the county could back out of the deal and obtain a deposit refund, contradicting the board’s direction.

To read expanded article, click here.