By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
"The issue with Eddie was the hanging out with this character [Chang]," O'Brien said in an interview. "Eddie and Kenny, they were associates, and I wanted them both gone because I wanted to give [Baca] what he wanted, the best Asian-crime task force in the world . . . I told him, 'Give me a chance to do that for you.'"
As O'Brien tells the story, "The sheriff looked at me and said, 'You're a police officer, lieutenant. If you've got a case to make, make it. Nobody has immunity in this department, inside or out.'" By the end of the meeting, O'Brien's transfer had been rescinded. Baca agreed to reassign Leung, and gave O'Brien the green light to go after Chang.
O'Brien wasn't the only law enforcer to raise concerns with the sheriff about Chang and Leung. Last spring, Baca was informed by the FBI that its agents were actively looking at Kenny Chang. And in an interview with the Weeklylast week, Captain Sam Dacus, head of the Sheriff's Internal Criminal Investigation Bureau, said the department had been informed of an FBI inquiry into Eddie Leung, which was being led by the FBI's public-corruption unit in West L.A.
ON MAY 22, THE CHINESE DAILY NEWSreported that Eddie Leung, the community's star officer, had been promoted to sergeant and transferred out of the Asian Crime Task Force. The move came as a surprise to members of the Chinese media, and it put Baca at pains to put a positive spin on it. He was paraphrased in the article as saying that Leung would continue to be one of his major advisers on Asian affairs, and promised that within a year or two, "Leung will be back to the task force."
There was considerably more to getting Leung a last-minute, face-saving promotion than Baca let on. In fact, a backroom deal was orchestrated to get Leung promoted. In the opinion of the plaintiffs' attorney who monitors Sheriff's Department hiring practices pursuant to a court settlement in a sexual discrimination case, Baca and his top executives violated a federal court order in their efforts to do so. "It appears," Pasadena attorney Dennis Harley wrote in a motion to the federal court in late June, "that the highest levels of defendant Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, including defendant Sheriff Leroy D. Baca, have manipulated the sergeant promotion process."
Promotions at the L.A. County Sheriff's Department are governed by a 1988 federal court judgment in the sexual-discrimination class-action lawsuit. As part of its court-ordered remedy, the Sheriff's Department instituted a formalized promotions process to ensure that more promotions went to women.
Deputies were required to take a series of sergeant exams and undergo an "appraisal of promotability" by station supervisors, usually captains, on the basis of performance, disciplinary history and other factors. Only those who scored 90 percent or better moved on to what was called Band 1. Department commanders then sat down together and picked a "consensus list" of those eligible for promotion by the sheriff. When the list of 151 deputies was issued on March 15 -- before Baca's showdown with O'Brien -- Eddie Leung's name was not among them.
What happened next, internal Sheriff's Department documents show, appeared to circumvent the rules mandated by the court. Baca quietly issued a new, supplemental list of 37 candidates and added it to the initial consensus list, for a total of 188 names. Eddie Leung's name was one of the 37.
When the first round of promotions was announced on May 4, 32 deputies had been elevated to the rank of sergeant -- Leung among them. "For him to go from not even being on the list to getting promoted is like getting hit by lightning," said one union source. "It just doesn't happen."
When attorney Dennis Harley raised questions about the process, Tracey Kennedy, outside counsel for the Sheriff's Department, told him that not only had Baca added names to the list, but so had Assistant Sheriff Bill Stonich and Assistant Sheriff Larry Waldie -- Baca's right-hand man and Leung's old patron from Walnut Station.
The court order, Harley contends, made it clear that neither Waldie nor â Baca "had the right to add names to the list," nor to promote those named. According to a complaint filed by the Sheriff's-deputy union, the supplemental list stirred objections even among Baca's top staff. Harley says he intends to get to the bottom of the controversy by asking U.S. District Court Judge Robert M. Takasugi to compel Sheriff Baca and other department personnel to give sworn depositions in the matter.
Baca has issued a stock memorandum of denial. "There was no manipulation of sergeant candidates by me or anyone else in the department," he insisted. "No candidates were selected over the objections of commanders or chiefs."
Judge Takasugi is, so far, unimpressed by Baca's statements. Takasugi issued an order September 8 demanding Baca and the department "show cause in writing . . . why they should not be held in contempt for their failure to comply" with the consent decree. If Baca does not respond by September 28, the department could be fined $10,000 per day for noncompliance.
KENNY CHANG HAS NOT FARED quite so well as his friend Eddie Leung.
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