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LA Sheriff's aide relieved of duty after Eyewitness News investigation

Bishop Edward Turner, a high-ranking aide to Sheriff Lee Baca, has been relieved of duty after an Eyewitness News investigation.
November 13, 2013 12:00:00 AM PST
A high-ranking aide to Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca has been relieved of duty and a full-scale Internal Affairs investigation has been launched based on questions raised by an Eyewitness News investigation.

Bishop Edward Turner is a highly-paid civilian Field Deputy with the L.A. County Sheriff's Department and runs the Sheriff's Multi-Faith Clergy Council.

I sat down with Bishop Turner for an exclusive interview. Based on questions raised in that interview and our investigation, Sheriff's Department Spokesperson Steve Whitmore told Eyewitness News Wednesday morning that Bishop Turner has been officially relieved of duty pending that Internal Affairs investigation.

Turner's official duties involve reaching out to religious leaders of all faiths on behalf of Baca. We began investigating when we heard questions being raised about Turner's activities.

Turner makes $105,000 a year in that position. It's a job he's held since 2000. Turner also gets a county car, county gas and a county cellphone -- all paid for by Los Angeles County taxpayers.

In an interview posted on YouTube, Turner has said this of Baca: "I call him the main man. He's really been a great resource, because he's really opened up the entire sheriff's department to us."

Those resources included three sheriff's department computers that were being used at Turner's non-profit organization called Hope For Life.

Our investigation uncovered business dealings connected to Turner that appear to be inconsistent with his role at the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. Turner, who says drug-abuse prevention is among his duties at the sheriff's department, is the landlord to a medical marijuana dispensary.

That dispensary is directly across the street from Turner's church and his non-profit.

In an interview with Turner, I asked him if he's aware that the dispensary is operating illegally in the city of Los Angeles.

"I'm not aware of that," he replied.

The dispensary is illegal, because it's not one of the 134 marijuana dispensaries allowed to operate under Proposition D.

I asked Turner if he's aware of the sheriff's position on marijuana dispensaries.

"Absolutely," he replied.

"When you learned this was part of your holdings or at least a tenant in one of your holdings, did you notify the sheriff?" I asked.

"No, I didn't do anything about that," Turner replied. "It's not that I'm trying to hide anything. It's just there it is right there. I just did not think to bring it to the sheriff."

Turner said he didn't know the business was a dispensary at all until it was too late. He says it was after a management company arranged the lease. He told me he doesn't remember when that was.

According to the dispensary owner, that's not true. He told Eyewitness News he walks the rent check across the street to Turner's church every month.

"You say you've dealt with it?" I asked Turner.

"Oh, absolutely," he said.

"You've told them they have to leave?" I asked.

"Oh, absolutely," he said.

But the dispensary owner told Eyewitness News, that's also not true. As of Saturday, he had not been asked to leave.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department's "Multi-Faith Prayer Breakfast" is an annual event that collects donations for Turner's non-profit, Hope For Life. We wanted to know more about Hope For Life, but information is limited because the non-profit has not filed a 990 IRS form as required by law since 2009.

"The IRS has revoked their non-profit tax exemption?" I asked Turner.

"I'm not sure about that," he replied.

Turner told us that's a question for his accountant. We called, but his accountant hung up on us -- twice.

"There will be no more donations with the prayer breakfast, whatsoever," said Whitmore. "Because of Channel 7's investigation, you presented us with questions that we couldn't answer. And that's disturbing and a concern to us, especially the sheriff."

We also had questions about a 2005 sheriff's department "incident report." A package that was addressed to Turner's Power of Love church was intercepted by a sheriff's department narcotics team. The package contained $84,020 in cash.

Detectives wrote in their report that based on their expertise, that the cash was the "direct proceeds from the sale of controlled substances, or illegal narcotics."

"I was totally appalled and upset about that situation," said Turner.

According to the report, Turner called a detective and said he wasn't expecting a parcel and didn't know anyone in New York who would send him a box of money.

"I was brought into question by this department, by the administration of this department," said Turner.

Whitmore told me on Wednesday that the just-launched Internal Affairs investigation will re-examine how the probe into the package of cash was conducted.

"They'll get a copy of that report. They're going to look at that. Then they're going to go back and see who they need to talk to about that, with the specific, 'Well, who did talk to Bishop Turner?'" said Whitmore.

We asked Whitmore about accusations made by members of his department that Turner rarely showed up for work at sheriff's headquarters.

"They're fair questions. I don't have the answers yet. We're going to look into everything," Whitmore said.

I called Turner to get his response to the sheriff relieving him of duty. He did not respond.

Have a tip? Email the producer of this investigation: Lisa.Bartley@abc.com

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