Sheriff's captain removed from job for using inmates to build BBQ grill at jail

MILPITAS, California -- Santa Clara County Sheriff's Captain Amy Le was walked off the job at Elmwood Jail this past Friday in tears, her badge and county vehicle taken away.

She is now on paid administrative leave.

Sources close to the case said the removal stems from an unpermitted arbor and barbecue grill Le built at the jail with her own money, but using inmate labor.

Le reportedly wanted to create a break space for correctional staff.

In 2017, another captain had used inmate labor to build arbors and a storage shed.

Le apparently ran into trouble when her superiors did not like her project, and when they learned she didn't have a building permit.

As a lieutenant, Le was the first female president of the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Correctional Peace Officers Association, and steered the union's endorsement to Sheriff Laurie Smith this past election.

After Smith won that race, she promoted Le to captain.

Sources said Le was a supervisor at the main jail's sally port when a mentally ill inmate was beating his head against a post inside a transport van.

Last September, the man suffered brain damage and his parents are suing the county and the sheriff's department.

Le has been one of the most well-paid Santa Clara County employees for years.

In 2017, she received $449,767.49 with overtime and benefits, on a $142,530.12 base salary.

"It's very unusual for a captain to be walked off in that manner for a project that wasn't for personal gain, on jail property," said Retired Undersheriff and Chief of Correction, John Hirokawa who in the past oversaw the jails. "There may have been policies or procedures broken with regard to that project, but there must be more to the story."

ABC7 News asked Le to provide a comment but she declined.

They also reached out to Reggie Cooks, a public affairs officer for the sheriff's department, but he has not responded at the time this story was reported.
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