Opinion: Lithuania. Yuhan, China. Donald Trump. But What About Alex Villanueva?

L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva

When it comes to L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva, the West Hollywood City Council’s silence continues to be deafening.

On Aug. 3, the West Hollywood City Council unanimously passed a resolution brought forward by Mayor Lindsey Horvath to condemn Lithuania’s efforts to deny that its then leaders were involved in the Holocaust.  No surprise there. As Bob Bishop noted in “West Hollywood: The City with Its Own Foreign Policy,” since its formation 36 years ago the West Hollywood City Council has taken stands on more than 40 foreign policy issues (condemnation of the dog meat market in Yuhan, China, is one example) and passed countless resolutions on national issues. Those include a condemnation of Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, support of boycotts against Exxon over its environmental record, and then there was that denunciation of Southwest Airlines for its “people of size” policy.

But our City Council members have been stunningly silent when it comes to Sheriff Villanueva. Why speak out about him? For one thing, he is the man ultimately in charge of law enforcement in West Hollywood, thanks to the $20 million a year contract (recently renewed for five years with next to no public review) with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. And he’s a Sheriff whose misbehavior has cost us money. Los Angeles County recently agreed to provide its outgoing CEO Sachi Hamai with full-time private security and $1.5 million to settle claims she brought regarding “severe and pervasive harassment, defamation, malicious prosecution and hostility” by Villanueva. The county also has, oddly enough, had to spend more than $3 million on lawyers to pay for Villanueva’s defense in the county’s lawsuit against him for reinstating Caren Carl Mandoyan, the former West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station deputy fired by then-Sheriff Bill McDonnell after allegations of domestic abuse.  (Mandoyan worked on Villanueva’s election campaign.)

Villanueva has refused to comply with subpoenas from the L.A. County Civilian Oversight Commission, which has questions about the handling of the Coronavirus outbreak in county jails, nor has he shown up to answer questions about his claim that he might have to close two Sheriff’s stations because of the 4% reduction by the L.A. County Board of Supervisors of the Sheriff’s Departments’ $3.5 billion budget. In a statement clearly meant to be provocative, Villanueva has said that the budget cut (at 4%, it’s really just a small snip) might mean he will have to cut staffing for the Mental Evaluation Team that deals with the homeless and for the Special Victims Bureau, which is responsible for investigating the physical or sexual abuse of children and women.  Mayor Lindsey Horvath did question that at a recent City Council meeting.

Villanueva also has announced that he intends to increase the number of “concealed carry permits” by 400%, meaning more people in Los Angeles County will be able to carry guns hidden under their jackets. That wouldn’t seem to be in alignment with West Hollywood’s stand on guns, given that at least 45 of the City Council’s resolutions since cityhood have supported gun control initiatives.

Villanueva has launched an investigation into Max Huntsman, the L.A. County inspector general, in an apparent act of retribution against Huntsman’s investigation into his behavior. Huntsman has raised questions about Villanueva numerous times, most recently for refusing to share evidence from the recent death of Andres Guardado, who was shot and killed by deputies. Also questioned it Villanueva’s reinstatement last year of Michael Courtial, a deputy who was fired in June 2018  for using unreasonable force and failing to use de-escalation techniques. Courtial and other deputies were responding to a call that a man might be breaking into a truck when, the L.A. Times reported, Courtial “kicked the door of a truck, threatening to shoot the man inside. After yanking the man onto the ground, the lawman punched him several times in his back and shoulders as other officers wrangled the suspect onto his stomach and into handcuffs, according to law enforcement reports.”

And then there’s Villanueva’s blatant refusal to comply with Senate Bill 1421, which requires that law enforcement agencies make public on request previously confidential records about law enforcement officers involved in shootings or other serious uses of force, and about those who have committed sexual assaults or acts of dishonesty. The Los Angeles Times has filed a lawsuit against Villanueva for his refusal to comply with its requests for such information. 

WEHOville still hasn’t gotten access to records involving the deputies involving in the shooting death of one innocent young man and the serious injury to another at 939 Palm Ave. in April 2014 or to records related to the death of a young man who was hit by a deputy’s car while he was walking on the sidewalk on Santa Monica Boulevard in October 2015. WEHOville requested that information from Villanueva on Jan. 28, 2019, and today, 580 days later, continues to get emails saying the Sheriff’s Department is working on it. Under state law, the Sheriff’s Department has 14 days to provide the information requested. WEHOville called out the department’s violation of the law in a letter to Villanueva on which L.A. County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, West Hollywood City Manager Paul Arevalo, and then-mayor and current Councilmember John D’Amico were copied. Only Kuehl’s office reached out with an offer to help.  Public Safety Commissioner Tory Berger did raise the issue at the Commission’s Aug. 10 meeting, only to have his question snuffed by his fellow commissioners.

Calling out Villanueva for his misconduct is risky for those Council members who have grander political aspirations. Lindsey Horvath and John Duran can criticize Donald Trump because they don’t need the endorsements of the Republican Party of Los Angeles to run for L.A. County Supervisor or the state Assembly. But they have happily accepted endorsements from the Association of Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs (which already has endorsed Duran’s Nov. 3 re-election bid). ALADS is an organization that is a major backer of Villanueva because of his reinstatement of deputies fired by his predecessor because of improper or illegal behavior.

For decades our state legislators also have yielded to the demands of law enforcement unions.  In a story about the failure of the state legislature to adopt many police reform proposals in the session that ended Monday, CalMatters noted that “police unions have long been big political donors to both Democrats and Republicans in California. The Peace Officers Research Association of California has spent nearly $1 million on state political campaigns since last year, records show, including donations of $280,000 to the California Democratic Party and $152,500 to the California Republican Party. It wrote checks to the campaigns of 11 sitting legislators in mid-August as lawmakers prepared to vote on numerous bills.”

That explains why the State of California has had the most restrictive laws in the nation when it comes to prosecuting officers for misconduct or making public the information the citizens of this state need to know.

Our City Council members need to put the safety and the lives of the residents of West Hollywood and the residents of all of Los Angeles County (like Andres Guardado and Dijon Kizzee) ahead of their political ambitions. They should put on their Sept. 21 agenda a statement condemning Alex Villanueva for his unethical and illegal behavior. That statement should ask for his resignation. And it should state that the City of West Hollywood will work with the Los Angeles County members of the Contract Cities Association to find another provider of law enforcement services if Villanueva doesn’t step down.

If our City Council isn’t willing to do that, it needs to drop the “progressive city” moniker and stop claiming that we’re the “safest place to live, work, and play” (which already has been disproven).

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Cy Husain
1 month ago

A recent whistleblower Deputy Art Gonzalez claims the deputy who shot and killed 18-year-old Andres Guardado was a prospective member of a violent clique within the Compton sheriff’s station known as the “executioners.” To impress the executioners and to join their group, a Sheriff’s Deputy commits an extrajudicial killing and is given a tattoo matching that of other Deputies in the group as a status symbol. Sheriff Alex Villanueva who is investigating the claims has downplayed the allegations as being exaggerated and, has also been accused of belonging to a violent Sheriff’s gang as well. So far the Sheriff has… Read more »

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Steve Martin
Steve Martin
1 month ago

LA Congress members are requesting that the Department of Justice investigate the existence of “gangs” within the Sheriff’s Department; I would hope our City Council would pass a resolution supporting this investigation of the Sheriff’s Department. But I am not holding my breath. Our so called “progressive” leaders have been silent and ineffective in nearly every attempt to have accountability within the Sheriff’s Department. Even when two of our neighbors were shot on Palm Avenue as a result of incompetence the City Council remained silent. John Heilman was a former member of the local branch of the ACLU but his… Read more »

Justice
Justice
1 month ago
Reply to  Steve Martin

Thank you Hank and Steve for speaking truth to power. Is anyone listening?

Cy Husain
1 month ago
Reply to  Justice

YES, and a-lot has been happening over making the Sheriff’s Department accountable for their criminal activities. Politicians are calling for Alex Villanueva’s resignation and for the members of the Deputy Gang to be fired at the very least.

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Lt R
Lt R
1 month ago

Small correction: The statement “Under state law, the Sheriff’s Department has 14 days to provide the information requested” is incorrect. State law requires the Sheriff’s department to answer whether it will be providing documents within 10 days (which can be extended by 14 more days in done circumstances). There is no hard deadline for actually handing over documents, other than it must be done “promptly.”

Art Scotti
Art Scotti
1 month ago

They should put on their Sept. 21 agenda a statement condemning Alex Villanueva for his unethical and illegal behavior. That statement should ask for his resignation. And it should state that the City of West Hollywood will work with the Los Angeles County members of the Contract Cities Association to find another provider of law enforcement services if Villanueva doesn’t step down.” YES!!!!!

Alan Strasburg
Alan Strasburg
1 month ago

Lindsey Horvath’s policy agenda relates directly to, and is in complete furtherance of Lindsey Horvath’s political aspirations. The issues are empty noise on a crowded council agenda designed to ensure cute bullet points on future campaign mailers. The staff time to write up her endless symbolic ploys and gestures should be cause for concern of anyone paying attention to what will very quickly be depleted city resources due to declining budgets. Hey Lindsey, what about the great injustice of referring to chicken tenders as “boneless chicken wings”. Click here. Focus on West Hollywood and the daily quality of lives of… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by Alan Strasburg
Danielle Harris
Danielle Harris
1 month ago

Thanks for this article. He truly acts like Trump and believes he’s above the law and refuses any accountability. Villanueva is a DISASTER. He’s cost LA County and us, the taxpayers, millions of dollars already,as well as destroyed any relationships of cooperation with the Board of Supervisors (who didn’t support him). No city leaders from cities that contract out sheriff’s services will go against him. Especially mayor Lindsey Horvath who has her sights set on higher offices. Remember her true allegiances. He needs to resign or be recalled. Or fully investigated. What other choice do we have? And don’t forget.… Read more »

Blueeyedboy
Blueeyedboy
1 month ago

Danielle Harris, you are so right. What our city leaders think about national issues is of no concern to me. Take care of our small town and share your opinions about the rest of the world with only those closest to you. By shooting off their mouths about issues that are beyond our borders it is clear that we are being used as a stepping stone to something bigger than us for themselves. I don’t care what any of them think about Trump, but I do care what they are going to do to get the homeless out of WeHo,… Read more »

Art Scotti
Art Scotti
1 month ago

Yes, I fell for the Dem endorsement too BUT WON’T ANY MORE!!!

Pat
Pat
1 month ago

Leave this guy alone. For Pete’s sake focus on preserving what clearly being destroyed by the left. Enough of this nonsense.

JF1
JF1
1 month ago
Reply to  Pat

Yup.

Joshua88
Joshua88
1 month ago

Bravo, Mr Scott.

If you ever read any of my posts, you would know that I think we lost any Progressive credentials a while ago.

Ham Shipey
Ham Shipey
1 month ago

He’s doing a fine job. The City Council members…..on the other hand.

JF1
JF1
1 month ago
Reply to  Ham Shipey

Nailed it.

Larry Block
Larry Block
1 month ago

Thanks for keeping the pressure on reform. If you were a city council candidate I’d gladly support you.

JF1
JF1
1 month ago
Reply to  Larry Block

You lost my vote.

Ian
Ian
1 month ago

Not only does the West Hollywood City Council see fit to impose THEIR personal opinions when it comes to FOREIGN POLICY (basically NONE of their business) on behalf of voters, but they do so without the approval of the populace!

Last edited 1 month ago by Ian
Vigilant
Vigilant
1 month ago
Reply to  Ian

Wanting the appearance of being well informed is entirely different from being well informed. Operating like a glorified fraternity or sorority with pet projects, advancing themselves first and foremost within the spheres of individual special interest communities is not good governance. These would not be considered educated people as most of the information pushed at the public comes via staff via consultants who lack any real grasp of the wholeness of the community. It’s like consulting on an abstract science project with little investment. The pandemic was a truth test in many respect. Advancing a moratorium on evictions was the… Read more »

JF1
JF1
1 month ago
Reply to  Ian

Amen.

Ham Shipey
Ham Shipey
1 month ago
Reply to  Ian

yep. this isn’t a serious city. no serious people would ever consider running for city council and deal with the WH circus.

JF1
JF1
1 month ago
Reply to  Ham Shipey

Mark Farhad Yusupov For change for the better.

WeHoMikey
WeHoMikey
1 month ago
Reply to  Ian

Ian – “the approval of the populace” happens every 4 years.