Bye bye Baca: A surprise exit for embattled sheriff

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L.A. Sheriff Lee Baca is expected to announce his retirement at a news conference this morning – abandoning his bid for a fifth term as the county’s top cop. Baca has reportedly told top county officials that he believes that his departure will help the department move past years of turmoil and criticism. Baca, who was first elected in 1998, has portrayed himself as an agent of change at the department, which is the fourth largest police agency in the country. But his image has been tarnished by a series of scandals, including an FBI investigation into violence and corruption by deputies inside the county jail system. Baca has also been stung by revelations that his department hired dozens of deputies who should have been denied jobs because of past misconduct…Closing statements are scheduled today in the trial of two former Fullerton police officers accused of beating to death mentally ill homeless man Kelly Thomas. Prosecutors say the officers deviated from department policy and used excessive force when they fought with Thomas during an arrest in the summer of 2011. But lawyers for the accused officers say Thomas was a violent menace, whose died as a result of his past drug use. Thomas’s death galvanized local activists and led to the recall of three city council members and the departure of the Fullerton police chief…tourvanOur recent weather relative to the rest of the country, and well, just about anywhere else, may help explain why people just can’t stay away from L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti says tourism hit a new high last year, when 42.2 million people visited the City of Angels. The increase was modest – just 1 percent over 2012, but that was enough to set a record. Garcetti said tourism is an integral part of the L.A. economy that supports thousands of jobs…Topping the agenda at the first L.A. School Board meeting of the year today is filling the seat left vacant by the death of Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte. Board members must pick between the politically-volatile option of appointing a successor, or holding a pricey special election to fill the seat for the next 14 months. Two high-profile candidates are already angling for the job: former School Board member Genethia Hayes and retired LAUSD administrator George McKenna…villaraigosaAnd finally, Antonio Villaraigosa is one busy guy. The former L.A. mayor has yet another new job. That’s at least six paid gigs since leaving City Hall last summer. Villaraigosa has been hired as a senior advisor at Spanish-language broadcaster Estrella TV, a young network based in Burbank. Villaraigosa has also signed on for advisory jobs with Herbalife, Edelman Public Relations and Banc of California, and he’s taken posts at Harvard University and USC.