Gary Nalbandian, who runs a tire store in Southern California, has several fancy-sounding law enforcement titles but has served in only one paid position: a volunteer reserve deputy with the Los Angeles County sheriff at $1 a year. The Los Angeles Times reports that he has raised tens of thousands of dollars in political contributions for two sheriffs and a prosecutor. The three officials issued badges, identification cards, or other official-looking credentials for many of the donors, designating them members of groups including a “Homeland Security Support Unit,” a “Sheriff’s Executive Council” and a “Bureau of Justice.”
The law enforcement officials insist the credentials were appropriate because the men did important volunteer work. Critics say the granting of badges and titles to political supporters creates the appearance that they are rewards for donations. The badges are similar to real ones; it is a misdemeanor in California to distribute badges to the public that are likely to be confused with real law enforcement badges. Two officials now have asked Nalbandian to disband the law enforcement support groups and return the badges and identification cards.