A pastor and top civilian aide to L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca was relieved of duty and is the subject of an internal affairs investigation after officials learned he owns a South Los Angeles property that houses a medical marijuana shop, a spokesman said Wednesday.
Bishop Edward R. Turner works as a paid field deputy for Baca and oversaw the department's Multi-Faith Clergy Council for more than a decade. The bishop, who founded Power of Love Christian Fellowship ministries in South Los Angeles, earns at least $105,000 a year working for Baca.
He was notified by Baca on Tuesday evening that he would be relieved of duty after the department learned from KABC-TV about the medical marijuana shop and that a nonprofit he operates had its tax status revoked, said sheriff's spokesman Steve Whitmore.
"An internal affairs investigation has been launched into Bishop Turner," Whitmore said. "This is first the sheriff had heard of these allegations."
Turner was placed on paid leave Wednesday and assigned to his home during work hours while the internal investigation is ongoing. He had to return a county-owned car, three computers and other equipment to the department. Turner did not immediately return calls for comment.
According to public records, Turner owns a property at 1425 W. Manchester Ave. — across the street from his church — that houses Manchester Caregivers, which describes itself as a marijuana dispensary that offers cannabis brownies, cookies and smoking accessories to those with medical marijuana prescriptions.
"We are looking at what he knew and when he knew it," Whitmore said of the department probe.
The dispensary is not among the approximately 130 marijuana outlets meeting voter-approved criteria for operation in Los Angeles, according to a list from the Los Angeles City Attorney's office. The City Attorney is moving to shut down dozens of clinics operating outside the requirements approved by voters in May.
Under the measure, property owners can face prosecution and the same penalties as illegal pot shop operators, including a $1,000 fine and six months in jail. So far, no operator or landlord has been jailed.
Turner told KABC-TV he never informed the department that a marijuana store was operating on his property. Baca has stated he opposes pot dispensaries.
"It was not that I was trying to hide it," Turner told the TV station. "There it is, right there."
Charity records show Turner served as chairman and founder of the Helping Our People Excel for Life Foundation, a nonprofit community group. Federal records indicate the organization had its charity status revoked after failing to file tax returns for three years.
Its last filing on record with the IRS was for its 2009 taxes, according to the Guidestar charity monitoring group. In that year, the organization's 990-EZ shows a total revenue of $8,298 and expenses of $44,969, according to the August 2010 filing.
Turner has served as a Baca field deputy for 14 years, according to Whitmore. Baca previously told The Times that Turner's primary value was in bridging the gap between the department and communities reluctant to trust police.
One of the events Turner organized is an annual multi-faith breakfast. Whitmore said the department is examining why attendees were asked for a $25 donation to attend when the food and flatware was donated for the event.
The department will also reexamine an investigation into a package containing $84,000 delivered to the charity in 2006 that was tracked by narcotics officers from Los Angeles International Airport. The money was seized by authorities before anyone at the charity opened it.
Turner's daughter, a deputy in the Sheriff's Department, has also been relieved of duty with pay because she is under investigation in a separate matter. According to court records, she was charged with misdemeanor battery and felony vandalism in connection with an off-duty incident.