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Interim Sherriff Suspends the Field Deputy Program

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One day in and interim LA County Sheriff John Scott has already suspended the department’s controversial field deputy program as allegations fly that participants received six-figure salaries for doing little.Scott, who was serving his first day in office, said he was launching an inquiry into possible misuse of county funds, according to KABC.

A day before, an Eyewitness News investigation raised questions about one of the three field deputy officers who are retiring along with former LA County Sheriff Lee Baca’s resignation Thursday. Michael Yamaki, a longtime friend of Baca, retired Thursday from his post as an “executive assistant” to Baca, where he was costing L.A. County taxpayers $171,931 a year, according to sheriff's departments spokesman Steve Whitmore.

So what was that money going toward?

Yamaki’s duties involved “[interfacing] with the residents of L.A. County, of business community, of political” and “[raising] money for the Sheriff's Youth Foundation,” according to Whitemore. Apparently that involved a lot of golf.

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Yamaki had previously been falsely identified as a manager of sorts for the Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades by various publications, according to the investigation, though he has never held any official position there—he's an investor in the club. He has been spotted leaving the country club, where stars like Mark Wahlberg and Jack Nicholson play, in his car—provided by the county—on three occasions by the Eyewitness team. The team’s request for work calendars and schedules for Yamaki were denied, and when pressed about what Yamaki had accomplished during his tenure, Whitmore could only come up with a deal Yamaki brokered for local businesses’ parking lots to be used by sheriff’s vehicles in emergencies.

Amid the troubles during Baca's tenure were revelations that he accepted $120,000 worth of gifts—those included nine rounds of golf, paid for by Yamaki, mostly at the Riviera.

As previously reported, another of the field deputies who will step down was a bishop with ties to a pot shop.