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Verdict in Blue Bowl flap: No verdict

An awkward footnote in the history of the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office is closing without resolution.

Sheriff Bill Ayub informed the Acorn recently that he will not be able to say whether politically charged statements allegedly made in September 2019 by former Thousand Oaks Chief of Police Tim Hagel to the Naples, Fla.-based organizer of a charity flag football tournament constituted a breach of duty.

The reason, Ayub said: Hagel retired before internal affairs had a chance to finish its review.

“The investigation into the alleged remarks by Tim Hagel to the Blue Bowl organizers was not completed prior to Tim’s separation from employment,” Ayub said in a Feb. 13 email. “As the investigation was administrative in nature and the involved employee is no longer employed, we no longer have the authority to compel his participation in the investigation. Because of this, the investigation was halted and will remain incomplete.”

Hagel, a 31-year veteran of the force and a popular figure in Thousand Oaks, announced his retirement in December and left the department in early January, saying there was no connection between his decision to leave and allegations that he told Mike Randall of Fallen Officers/The Robert L. Zore Foundation that “this isn’t Trump country” and made some less-than-glowing statements about Randall’s pro-Trump list of invited speakers.

Ayub said he was prohibited by law from disclosing any details uncovered by the department.

“I realize this may not be very satisfying to those interested, but it is the nature of administrative investigations of peace officers,” Ayub said.

Bad publicity

Supporters of the president lambasted the sheriff’s office and Thousand Oaks city government for days in September on social media after Randall told local reporters and FOX News that Hagel and Ayub canceled a fundraiser for the family of a fallen officer—Borderline shooting hero Sgt. Ron Helus—out of their dislike for Trump.

Ayub and Hagel have said nothing could be further from the truth. Their position is that Randall acted in bad faith by misleading the public about the event and then trying to create a media firestorm to bring attention—and donations—to his charity. Helus’ widow and son have stood by the department’s decision.

Hagel, 60, is said to have made the anti-Trump comments in a fit of anger after Randall responded angrily to word that the sheriff’s office was planning to pull its support for the Blue Bowl three weeks before the tournament was to take place at Newbury Park High School.

The decision came a day after a staff member of Assemblymember Jacqui Irwin—who had agreed to speak at the Blue Bowl—alerted Hagel that Randall was inviting outspoken Trump supporters actor Scott Baio and singer Joy Villa, as well as attorney Ronda Kennedy, a Republican who held no public office, to speak at the start of the tournament.

“The people whose lives will be forever changed and a city who will never forget deserves more,” Irwin senior staff member Nancy Frawley wrote in a Sept. 16 email to Hagel obtained by the Acorn, referencing Borderline. “This organization is using us for their gain.”

Ayub said he came to believe Randall, who had previously earned the sheriff’s office’s support and the support of the Heluses, was trying to turn the charity event into a political rally. As a nonpartisan body, he said, the department wanted no part of it.

Fallen

Things haven’t gotten much better for Randall and the Zore Foundation (Fallen Officers) since the failure of the Blue Bowl in California. A subsequent Blue Bowl planned in Alabama also had to be canceled, as was a Poker Run in Naples, Fla. Randall regularly uses the Fallen Officers’ official Twitter handle to chastise notable right-wing celebrities for not agreeing to speak at his pro-police events.

While Randall admits he let his emotions get the best of him and that he could have handled the situation better, he still feels he’s owed an apology by the department for pulling out at Irwin’s behest (Kennedy was Irwin’s 2018 opponent, which he suspects was the primary factor in the department’s decision).

“All I would love is someone to give us a public apology or even just call us and give us an apology, that’s kind of what I always wanted,” Randall told the Acorn.

The 49-year-old said he and partner Rosemary Zore, the foundation’s founder, were interviewed by two sheriff’s deputies over the phone for 45 minutes Nov. 15 and they haven’t heard from the department since. Randall said the timing of the interview would have given the sheriff’s office ample time to complete its investigation into Hagel’s Sept. 17 phone call before Hagel’s early January retirement.

“I don’t even know how to respond to that,” Randall said when hearing word of Ayub’s statement. “I would think that if two people are doing an internal investigation, and they took the time to call us and take that information, you would think that there would have to be a conclusion to it regardless if he retired or didn’t retire.”

Randall said he played the deputies a recording of the phone call between himself and Hagel that included the remarks.

“They heard, they had everything, that’s what’s shocking,” Randall said.

Hagel’s response

Hagel, for his part, continues to say he has no regrets for his handling of the situation.

“The Florida organization moved on in 2019 and all of us here as neighbors in turn are able to help one another as our community heals each day,” he texted.

“I really don’t think about that guy (Randall) and truly hope that his Florida group finds peace within themselves,” Hagel added.

Now retired and working full time with Safe Passage, an anti-gang program he helped to found, the lawman said he’s received nothing but support from residents since the Blue Bowl incident.

“I personally have been overwhelmed with gratitude as the kindness expressed to me and the (Borderline) families by thousands of residents in our Conejo Valley to get us through those rough patches when the out-of-state group struck in 2019,” he wrote. “Each and every Borderline family continues to be family to me and vice versa.”

This story was updated at 2:40 p.m. March 6, 2020. An earlier version incorrectly stated that Frawley’s email was sent to Ayub. It was actually sent to Hagel with a request that it be forwarded to Ayub.

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A pioneer in the flag football community, Travis helped co-found the Flag Football World Championship Tour, FlagSpin and USA Flag. Featuring 15+ years of content creation for the sport of flag football, creating and managing the largest flag football tournaments on the planet, coaching experience at the youth and adult level as well as an active player with National and World Championship level experience.

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