LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- When sheriff's deputies Wednesday morning carried boxes and paperwork out of the Santa Monica home of Los Angeles County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, the search reignited claims of Sheriff Alex Villanueva using the powers of his office to target his critics.
The department is looking into whether Kuehl helped one of her closest friends, Patti Giggans, gain a service contract with the city worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The contract in question was for a Metro sexual harassment hotline, run by nonprofit Peace Over Violence, which Giggans runs. Kuehl serves on its advisory board.
Giggans' home was also searched Wednesday. Both women deny doing anything wrong.
Kuehl and Giggans have been harsh critics of Sheriff Alex Villanueva, and they feel that is what this is really about.
Kuehl called the investigation "an effort to harass, intimidate and retaliate against a public figure who has been an outspoken critic of L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva. I am not the only such critic, and other courageous county leaders have also been the targets of this sheriff's vindictiveness."
Kuehl appointed Giggans to the Civilian Oversight Commission, a sheriff's watchdog group.
A 2021 letter within the commission lists a series of investigations allegedly targeting the sheriff's critics. But it concludes "... heavily publicized criminal investigations have never resulted in the filing of any criminal charges..."
It goes on to say "... such investigations have chilled meaningful civilian oversight of the LASD."
"The COC should request an independent investigation by an entity unaffected by the announced investigations, such as the Office of the California Attorney General or the U.S. Department of Justice."
No such third-party investigation has, since this letter was written, come to fruition.
The attorney general has, however, commented on part of this case.
Despite the sheriff's department saying Villanueva was recused from the Kuehl investigation, he sent a letter the day of the search, asking the A.G. to investigate who, if anyone, tipped Kuehl off ahead of the search. The attorney general's office is reviewing it.
Kuehl maintains she didn't know what was going on while deputies went through her things, but she commented that she was notified by the county counsel's office in advance about the impending search of her home.
LASD provided the following statement to Eyewitness News regarding the sheriff's letter to the attorney general:
"The Sheriff is recused from the LA Metro/Peace Over Violence investigation. The letter the Sheriff sent to the AG does not have anything to do with the elements of the crimes related to that investigation. The Sheriff's letter was for a completely separate alleged crime, which emerged from the comments Ms. Kuehl made to reporters 'I heard from County Counsel last night that she got a tip from Max Huntsman, that the search would happen this morning.' Based on her own admission, a new crime has emerged. The Sheriff is completely correct to ask the AG to investigate, in lieu of LASD opening the investigation."
City News Service contributed to this report.