Costa Mesa Cop Scandal Solved?

Bill Lobdell is the author of the best-selling Losing My Religion: How I Lost My Faith Reporting on Religion in America, a former LA Times religion reporter and a current columnist for the Daily Pilot. He has an interesting story in today's paper that appears to offer clues in the bizarre case of the two high-ranking Costa Mesa cops who were suddenly placed on leave in November. Until now, all anyone outside City Hall knew was that Police Chief Christopher Shawkey and Captain Ron Smith had both been placed on administrative leave–no details, no further explanation offered.

So Lobdell did what most investigative reporters do when they smell a cover-up: He started digging.

As Lobdell reports, that digging simply involved a trip to City Hall, where he pored over Shawkey's recent expense reports. He found that Shawkey had purchased hundreds of gallons of gasoline for his city-paid vehicle, using a city credit card, at gasoline stations as far away as Arizona, Utah and Nevada–not locations Costa Mesa cops typically patrol.

Smith, as Lobdell discovered, personally approved all of those expenses, meaning both men asserted the expenditures were for legitimate city business. Neither official would comment for Lobdell's story, and the reporter states he's unsure the illicit expenses would explain their sudden departure from the force. “If I were a betting man, I'd say the gas receipts are leading us in the right direction, but they aren't telling the whole story,” Lobdell concludes.

“We'll keep digging.”

Stay tuned. Meanwhile, you can read the rest of Lobdell's story here.

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