City renews LASD contract with little discussion 

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The Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station. Courtesy of the city of Santa Clarita.

The city of Santa Clarita handled important annual items Tuesday ahead of the fiscal year’s end, including a discussion of annual levying of fees, its service contracts and of course, the budget.  

The monthslong process behind the city’s $340 million annual budget traditionally wraps up at the council’s last meeting in June. 

Once again this year, City Manager Ken Striplin touted “a healthy operating reserve” in the neighborhood of 20%, and general fund revenues are forecast to outpace expenditures by several hundred thousand dollars. 

Missing from the agenda for public discussion was the city’s five-year contract with the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department for law enforcement services, which was on the city’s consent calendar, a list of items the council generally approves without discussion. 

Santa Clarita Mayor Cameron Smyth said there had not been any discussion about changes to the contract or a pending lawsuit against the Sheriff’s Department that has gained attention after it was filed by Lancaster in April.  

“I can only speak for me, and I’ve not had any conversations with staff or any other council members (about the lawsuit),” Smyth said Monday afternoon.  

There was no report out of closed session regarding the contract, and during Tuesday’s meeting, there were no concerns expressed about any potential changes to the contract or the city’s service level. It was approved unanimously by the council through the approval of the consent calendar. 

The lawsuit alleges that due to the LASD’s widely reported labor shortage, the contracts for patrol — which track deputies down to the minute — are met by deputies working overtime as opposed to the traditional staffing levels, which is less expensive for the department.  

Smyth also said he hadn’t heard any calls for either issue to be agendized for public discussion. Pending litigation involving the city normally would be discussed in closed session.  

The complaint was filed as a class action that includes all cities contracting with LASD for law enforcement services and states it’s illegal for LASD not to pass on any savings.  

As a member of the “class,” i.e. a city that contracts with LASD for services, the city of Santa Clarita would automatically benefit from any legal victory if one were achieved, unless it moves to opt out of the class. 

According to Lancaster Mayor R. Rex Parris, city of Lancaster officials did what Parris referred to as a “deep dive” on the numbers over nearly five years. Just for 2019-20, the cost differential was expected to be close to $1 million for deploying the 69 deputies in their contract versus the 51 actually deployed, he said. 

SCV Sheriff’s Station Capt. Justin Diez said his station’s current staffing level is about 65% to 70% of what it’s been traditionally, and the station typically has more than 270 deputies. 

Nicole Nishida, communications director for the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department, said the agency expects the city’s service level to remain consistent with the current fiscal year based on the dialogue between the city and the department’s Contract Law Enforcement Bureau.  

“To date, Contract Law Enforcement Bureau has not received notice of any service level change requests made by the City of Santa Clarita,” she wrote in an email Tuesday evening. 

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