Ticket-fixing allegations spurs shake-up in police department

SAN FERNANDO, CA &#8211 The acting police chief of San Fernando has been put on leave during an investigation into alleged ticket fixing on behalf of an aide to Rep. Howard Berman highlighted in a police video shown on YouTube.

San Fernando Police Chief Tony Ruelas returned to work days before he retires Monday to put Acting Police Chief Lt. Jeff Eley on administrative leave, the city announced late Friday.

He was replaced Thursday by Acting Chief Lt. Robert Parks, a 28-year veteran of the department.

“There were alleged accusations of misconduct,” City Administrator Al Hernandez told the Daily News. “The YouTube video had a lot to do with it.”

The suspension follows a long series of municipal scandals in the tiny northeast San Fernando Valley city involving its elected officials and police.

The six-minute video, entitled “San Fernando Police Exposed,” alleges Eley fixed a traffic ticket issued by an unidentified San Fernando cop last fall to Berman aide Fred Flores.

Apparently taken from a San Fernando police car, it seems to show an officer issuing a ticket for running a stop sign to a man who, according to the video, is the high-level congressional aide.

The video alleges the ticket was written at 8:18 a.m. Nov. 23, then apologizes to four other drivers who also got tickets for running the same stop sign the same day.

“A good officer issued this driver a traffic ticket for a stop sign violation,” said the video’s screen text, during a screeching violin score.

“Within minutes after being pulled over, Fred Flores spoke to Acting Chief Eley. Acting Chief Eley then broke the law and made the ticket disappear,” it adds.

Flores, who has been on medical leave, was not available for comment. A spokeswoman for Berman said she would not comment on a staff member’s traffic violation.

Detective Irwin Rosenberg, who represents the San Fernando police union, said the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department is investigating the police car video leak, in addition to the alleged ticket fixing.

The city attorney has requested an independent investigation on both fronts, according to the city administrator.

The San Fernando Police Officers Association, and the department’s reserve officer and civilian employees, have called for the reinstatement of their acting chief.

“It is unfair,” said Rosenberg, head of the union which represents 35 officers. “He should be immediately reinstated.

“He has not been provided due process.”

Ruelas was put on administrative leave in February amid allegations of an affair with a police cadet.

He then went on vacation in September, and was replaced by Eley. The chief officially retires Monday.

The police sex scandal preceded others involving elected officials. Last month, Mayor Mario Hernandez publicly admitted an affair with another councilwoman.

Three years ago, residents recalled two council members amid frustrations over city mismanagement and have launched another effort to recall three more, with police union support.

Meanwhile, City Administrator Hernandez said a search will soon commence for another chief.

“I am going to be looking at a retired chief from somewhere else to take over,” he said. “Because I’m sure this is going to get political.”

From The Contra Costa Times.

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