L.A. County Civilian Oversight Commission Officially Asks for Sheriff Villanueva’s Resignation

L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva

Escalating its war of words with Sheriff Alex Villanueva, the county’s Civilian Oversight Commission Thursday unanimously approved a resolution condemning the sheriff’s leadership of the department and calling for his immediate resignation.

The commission had originally planned to adopt a resolution that blasted Villanueva’s administration, accused him of failing to cooperate with the oversight panel and vowing to hold him accountable if he continued to “facilitate dysfunction” in the agency.

But during its discussion, commission members first considered amending the document to make it a “no-confidence” vote, then went even further by demanding his resignation. The panel amended the document to conclude that it has “lost confidence in Sheriff Villanueva’s ability to effectively govern the sheriff’s department. He should resign immediately.”

Commission Chair Lael Rubin made the initial call to add a resignation demand, telling her colleagues, “I don’t think he (Villanueva) has any intention of making anything better.” She noted that some members of the panel individually called on the sheriff to step down last month.

“One would have hoped that during the last month, with all of that discussion and public comment and comments in news articles that he would take some of that to heart,” she said. “He obviously has not.”

Other commission members joined her in the call for Villanueva to resign. Commissioner Priscilla Ocen said to simply pass a resolution saying the panel had “grave concerns” would be an “understatement.” She accused Villanueva of engaging in “lies” and “coverups,” and of exacerbating problems in the agency through “his willingness to defend indefensible actions by deputies.”

“He fails to take responsibility for problems in his department, blaming everyone else,” Ocen said. “… He blames everyone else, including the former sheriff, for the problems he’s responsible for.”

The West Hollywood City Council Has Yet to Take an Official Stand on Villanueva

Villanueva’s conduct has led L.A. County Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Sheila Kuehl, as well as Los Angeles City Councilman David Ryu, to call for his resignation. The L.A. County Board of Supervisors also voted to put on the Nov. 3 ballot a measure that, if approved by voters, would allocate 10% of the county’s unrestricted general funds for housing, jail diversion, mental health and other social services, with some of that money being diverted from the Sheriff’s Department. Villanueva has criticized the board for that move.

The City of West Hollywood contracts with the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department for law enforcement services, spending approximately $20 million a year.  Several West Hollywood City Council members have been critical of Villanueva in discussions at Council meetings of public safety issues. Mayor Lindsey Horvath is asking the Council on Monday to support a request by two members of Congress that the Justice Department investigate allegations of abusive and illegal conduct by some members of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department who are said to belong to gangs.  The Council also has voted to hire an outside consultant to examine law enforcement practices in West Hollywood.

However, while the Council has voted on resolutions condemning the governments of Iran and Lithuania and taken stands on other national and international issues, it has not voted to ask for Villanueva’s resignation. Nor has any Council member issued an official statement condemning Villanueva’s behavior as have Ridley-Thomas, Kuehl, and Ryu.

The sheriff’s department posted a statement online Thursday afternoon insisting that Villanueva has “lawfully responded to all subpoenas” from the commission and recently met with Rubin to “discuss building a better working relationship.”

“This meritless politically motivated attack is unsupported by real facts and remains a shameless repeat of the same spectacle played out on Sept. 17, 2020,” according to the statement. “Despite this political theater, Sheriff Villanueva will continue being the most accessible and transparent sheriff in the history of Los Angeles County.”

The sheriff on Wednesday said the county should have an “elected oversight commission,” saying the current makeup of the panel is “political appointees” of the board, “and they act like it.”

“Their political philosophies are they really, really hate cops or they slightly hate cops or they’re not too sure,” Villanueva said.

When some members of the commission last month called for him to resign, Villanueva accused the panel of being nothing more than an “attack dog” for the Board of Supervisors.

“They’re just part of the echo chamber of the board,” the sheriff said. “And unfortunately, the route they take is not one that’s going to engender goodwill … between myself or the organization, because there’s a fine line being a watchdog and an attack dog, a political attack dog. And that’s pretty much the line they’ve crossed, along with (Inspector General) Max Huntsman. In fact, they crossed that line a long time ago, this is just the latest example of that.

“… I’m just going to ignore it and move on,” he said. “I’m going to continue serving the community, and I just have to set that aside.”

The resolution adopted by the commission Thursday outlines a series of disputes between the panel and Villanueva, concluding that he “enables a culture within the sheriff’s department of deputy impunity, disregards the constitutional rights of Los Angeles County residents, disdains other elected officials and disrespects the will of voters who support robust civilian oversight.”

Despite toughening the document to call for Villanueva’s resignation, the commission still included language stating that the panel still remains “committed to implementing constructive reforms in collaboration with Sheriff Villanueva and wishes to see Sheriff Villanueva succeed in rebuilding the sheriff’s department.”

Some commissioners questioned the inclusion of that language following a call for him to resign, calling it contradictory.

The commission has no legal authority to force Villanueva — an elected sheriff — out of office or force him to resign. Commission James Harris warned his colleagues during the discussion that such a strongly worded resolution “basically slams the door” on relations with the sheriff.

“And we’ve got two-plus more years of this sheriff before there’s another election,” he noted.

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James
James
29 days ago

I believe the answer West Hollywood is looking for here, is end the city’s contract with LASD. I’m a law abiding citizen who’s never been arrested. I had many brutal and angry encounters with the West Hollywood sheriffs even at the desk counter at the station when I’m just there reporting crime /trying to get help. I now live in Beverly Hills and the police here are wonderful. They act differently and they care about the people they serve. It creates trust and establishes peace, something we all want and need. So if you ask me I am anti police… Read more »

Last edited 29 days ago by James
WeHoldTheseTruths
WeHoldTheseTruths
1 month ago

White liberals in Weho love to protest against the police – until the moment that they actually need them.

Ham Shipey
Ham Shipey
1 month ago

this city needs him. dem policies have run this city into the ground. at least we can address crime.

Danielle Harris
Danielle Harris
1 month ago

Crickets from the city council. Most notably our honorable mayor Lindsey Horvath. Speak out and represent us!

Jim Nasium
Jim Nasium
1 month ago

You mean “Speak out and represent you” If I were you, I’d send her a letter. But in the meantime, leave “us” out of it.

Steve Martin
Steve Martin
1 month ago

I hope our City Council has the courage to stand by our convictions and demand the resignation of the Sheriff. This guy was pushed on us as a “reformist” candidate by ill informed progressives within the Democratic Party. Once in office he has proven to be a reactionary and has not only stonewalled new reforms but undermined existing ones. I have been working on Sheriff’s reform since I spent nearly 8 hours waiting to testify before the Board of Supervisors to testify in favor of the creation of the Kolts Commission over thirty years ago. Under prior Sheriffs such as… Read more »

Jay
Jay
1 month ago
Reply to  Steve Martin

Amen and thank you for your previous efforts as well, Steve!

Art
Art
1 month ago
Reply to  Steve Martin

Yes, I was fooled into voting for him by that Dem endorsement too! Grrr

John Daniel Harrington-Tyrell
John Daniel Harrington-Tyrell
1 month ago

A Commission and no Teeth, just political theater

Art
Art
1 month ago

How do we go about with a recall??? It MUST be done!

JF1
JF1
1 month ago

This is just political b.s.

Ham Shipey
Ham Shipey
1 month ago

he’s doing a fine job. LA has a high crime rate……and the standard of living gets worse ever year.
The Politician just talk…..and never improve the underlying problems here.

Jim Nasium
Jim Nasium
1 month ago

He was elected, he doesn’t have too, and won’t, consider the opinion or the political rhetoric of this appointed Commission. The Board of Supervisors or this Oversight Commission need to ask the voters for a recall election if they really want him gone……That will never happen.

Last edited 1 month ago by Jim Nasium
Jay
Jay
1 month ago

Bravo to Civilian Oversight Commission Chair Lael Rubin for leading the official charge in calling for Sheriff Villanueva’s resignation and inspiring her fellow commissioners to enact a stronger response to his multiple misdeeds and poor leadership.

While their call may unfortunately have no legal impact on Villanueva’s tenure, perhaps it will prod others such as our curiously stoic City Council to more rapid and robust action of their own.

Enough critical voices of authority will ideally command the California Attorney General’s attention, and that is the most likely avenue to an overdue new era at LASD.

Erik Jon Schmidt
Erik Jon Schmidt
1 month ago

How funny that Horvath would suggest that the Justice Department investigate any other elected official…it’s hilarious!

It is my opinion that City Council can’t criticize Villanueva because they are in the same political swamp he is and it would draw too much attention to them.

It would require courage and integrity for the City Council to speak truth to fellow power.