CA AG Bonta Confirms Sheila Kuehl Criminal Investigation Ongoing; Phil Washington 'Materially Involved'

Supervisor Sheila Kuehl/Facebook

Many of us in the Los Angeles area have been wondering what’s going on with the investigation into now former LA County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl and the no-bid contract to her friend Patti Giggans’ nonprofit, Peace Over Violence, for a sexual harassment hotline at LA Metro since the investigation was taken over by Attorney General Rob Bonta’s office.


We’ve received an update from perhaps one of the most unlikely places: from Capitol Hill, and from Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX).

Readers will recall that one prominent name in the search warrants executed last September at Kuehl and Giggans’ residences and offices, and the office of LA Metro, was Phil Washington, former head of LA Metro. A whistleblower alleged that when she pointed out the waste in the contract, that Washington told her to go ahead with the payments anyway because he was doing it as a favor for Kuehl. Many news outlets glossed over that part, and Kuehl herself disparaged the whistleblower.

Most of the Los Angeles press also threw the whistleblower under the bus; just four days before the November election (in which they endorsed Robert Luna for Sheriff, who eventually ousted the incumbent Alex Villanueva) the Los Angeles Times published a two-fer hit piece, attacking both Villanueva and the whistleblower, whom they named. They even noted that the whistleblower had reached a $625,000 settlement with the county and was under an NDA, so she couldn’t defend herself, but attacked her anyway.

While Washington told the New York Times in December that the allegations had been “debunked” and reiterated on Wednesday that he had “nothing to hide,” during Tuesday’s proceedings Cruz gave an impassioned opposition to Washington’s nomination and gave an update on the status.

Cruz said:

“Unfortunately, the problems with Mr. Washington’s nomination don’t end with his lack of aviation experience. There are also serious concerns regarding outstanding allegations that Mr. Washington engaged in misconduct during his time as the head of the Los Angeles Metro. He has been named in multiple search warrants in an ongoing criminal public corruption investigation, and he’s been the subject of multiple whistleblower complaints.

One search warrant was executed just last September, not very long ago. It contained allegations that Mr. Washington pushed forward lucrative no-bid contracts to a politically-connected nonprofit to run a sexual harassment hotline that was hardly ever used, and that he did so in order to stay in the good graces of a powerful politician on LA Metro’s board. The allegations are the kind of local corruption sadly we see far too often across this country, in both parties.

But a whistleblower who exposed the details of this alleged pay-to-play contracting scheme claims to have been retaliated against by Mr. Washington. After Mr. Washington left the LA Metro the agency settled these claims with the whistleblower for $625,000. I practiced law for a long time. you did as well. A $625,000 check is not a nuisance check. It’s not a “go away” check. It’s indicative that there’s a real there, there. Whistleblowers don’t get settlements for more than a half a million dollars if their claim is baseless.


Cruz submitted a letter back on March 1 requesting that Biden withdraw the nomination due to these and other concerns, but (not surprisingly) Biden ignored it. On Wednesday, it was announced that the Senate is delaying consideration of Washington’s nomination.

Now, onto the status of the Kuehl/Washington investigation. Cruz said that the week before the confirmation hearings began his staff called the California Attorney General’s office to inquire about the status of the supposedly “debunked” investigation (emphasis mine):

Despite Mr. Washington’s insistence that he’s done nothing wrong, the Attorney General’s office stated, number one, that there is an ongoing criminal investigation into this public corruption scheme; number two, that Mr. Washington has a, quote, material involvement in the case, and number three, that the investigation is months from being completed.

Well, that’s encouraging. Perhaps since one of the people named isn’t a retired “legendary” legislator who likely has dirt on everyone (Kuehl), and is under the spotlight of Republicans in Washington, both Bonta and Gavin Newsom will be forced to actually investigate instead of sweeping it under the rug.

And lest those in Washington think this is just a partisan investigation, Cruz reminded them:

It’s important to note that the law enforcement officers involved in this investigation, from the LA County Sheriff to the California Attorney General, are all Democrats. There’s no issue of partisan targeting. there’s no Republican who has it out for Phil Washington. This is a Democrat sheriff and a Democrat attorney general in California who are investigating Mr. Washington right now for public corruption.


Even worse, Bonta’s office admitted that the inquiry from Cruz’s staff was the first inquiry they’d had about Washington’s involvement in the investigation:

Even more amazing, when my staff spoke with the California Attorney General’s office, the AG’s office told us that at the time they spoke they were not aware of anybody from the White House, from the FBI, or from the Senate who had even contacted them to ask about Mr. Washington’s ongoing involvement in the investigation. That’s truly stunning. That is, frankly, just not caring.

It’s inexplicable to me that a president, that a White House would choose to nominate someone who is materially involved in a current ongoing public corruption investigation. Just imagine how damaging it would be to the FAA if Mr. Washington were confirmed and then months later he were to find himself indicted for public corruption. That would do real damage to an agency that needs serious trust in leadership.

While stunning things happen in Washington daily, perhaps even hourly, this is, as Cruz says, truly stunning. We know that the Democrats in Washington don’t want to be told something they’ll have to deny knowing, and that’s likely why they didn’t call. And there’s no doubt that Biden has talked to Newsom about this at the very least, because local investigative journalist Cece Woods reports that when the search warrants were executed in September 2022, Biden was given copies by the Secret Service and wasn’t happy:

Washington-based sources tell The Current Report [that] President Biden, after reviewing the documents, immediately ordered an investigation into why the FBI was not involved in the raids.


The FBI was involved, but since Villanueva was there they couldn’t just hide evidence as Biden likely hoped.

Just how big is this investigation? Well, as Cruz noted, municipalities aren’t in the habit of just handing out $625,000 settlements for employment lawsuits, so that’s one indication. There’s also the likelihood that this whistleblower or others know about much more than just this one $800,000 no-bid contract, especially given the reaction by the local power players who were named in the warrant. Washington is a critical piece of this incident, as described by Cruz and also in the search warrant, which can be read below. And, as we will highlight in an upcoming piece, this recently-confirmed Ambassador to India Eric Garcetti’s office was heavily involved, with Patti Giggans of Peace Over Violence writing to Garcetti’s LA Metro Deputy, Dan Rodman: “Thank you, Dan, for that initial idea for METRO to do more.”

Transparency Signed MTA SW Redacted by Jennifer Van Laar on Scribd


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