The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Wednesday denied a report saying a plot of land situated near Sheriff Alex Villanueva’s La Habra Heights home was being cleared to build a helipad without the owner’s approval.
In a statement, the department said the report by the Los Angeles Times claiming it was performing construction on the land without authorization was “erroneous.”
The newspaper reported Wednesday crews had begun grading an area that sits above Villanueva’s house and bringing in dirt despite not having approval from the owner, Southern California Gas Co.
The Times reported sheriff’s officials met with utility workers at the land last summer, where they asked about the possibility of building a helipad there. The request was denied, The Times stated, yet construction began.
The department denied doing such work, saying “the work performed consisted primarily of brush clearing; no dirt was ever brought in, no fencing was ever built, and there was never a plan to pour cement or build a helipad.”
The department claimed it was given approval by the gas company in January to clear the land to use in an emergency, following a threat assessment conducted at the sheriff’s home because of “numerous credible threats, doxing and protests.”
“The goal was simply to clear a plot of land which could be utilized in an emergency for landing a helicopter, just like an intersection or school field is used as a contingency in an emergency,” the department said, adding that “services were procured within the county’s purchasing guidelines.”
The Times reported that city investigators who visited the area earlier this month noticed a hillside slope had been leveled. La Habra Heights City Manager Fabiola Huerta told The Times, “From the information we received from the Gas Company, I believe it was the Sheriff’s Department doing the work.”
In a cease-and-desist letter from a lawyer with gas company, attorney Michelle Meghrouni demanded the construction stop and dirt brought to the land removed, according to The Times.
A county attorney responded, saying in a letter it had “directed the Sheriff’s Department to immediately cease any and all activities” on the land during an investigation, according to The Times.
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