Two Supervisors Urge Los Angeles County to Consider How It Might Remove Sheriff Villanueva

L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors is set Tuesday to consider how it might oust Sheriff Alex Villanueva from his post before voters have a chance to do so in 2022.

Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Sheila Kuehl have recommended that the board round up its lawyers, inspector general, civilian oversight commissioners and acting CEO to look at options for removing or impeaching the sheriff.

“Under the current sheriff, hard-fought vital progress is being undone, and community trust is rapidly eroding,” their motion states. “While the board has been able to navigate challenging times with previous sheriffs, this sheriff’s actions demonstrate the dire need to explore options for removing a sheriff who refuses oversight or, at a minimum, mitigating damages cause by unacceptable behavior.”

It should not be a surprise to anyone following county politics that the Board of Supervisors is frustrated with the sheriff, as Villanueva and even the staunchest defenders of law enforcement on the board have been in a battle for months about a host of issues ranging from his budget to deputy cliques.

The board has sued the sheriff in order to insist that a deputy terminated for misconduct not be reinstated by Villanueva. The sheriff has sued the inspector general, accusing his staff of illegally accessing department documents.

As the board prepares to vote on the Ridley-Thomas/Kuehl motion, it is also scheduled to consider others that highlight its broken working relationship with the sheriff. One motion seeks an investigation by the inspector general into the recent shooting of a patient by a deputy at Harbor- UCLA Medical Center. Another calls for the release of body-cam footage and a coroner’s inquest into the fatal deputy shooting of 25-year-old Fred Williams in South Los Angeles earlier this month. The sheriff’s department says Williams was armed with a gun, which he pointed at the deputy before the deputy shot him.

The board — or at least some of its members — seems prepared to set the stakes of its disagreements with the sheriff higher now, considering changes that would extend beyond Villanueva’s term. Ridley-Thomas and Kuehl’s motion anticipates asking the workgroup to determine the full scope of legal changes, including amending the state constitution, that would be required to move to an appointed, rather than elected sheriff.

Other possibilities to be considered include pulling some of Villanueva’s responsibilities and appointing a county police chief. The motion points to the fact that the city of Los Angeles has an appointed chief, rather than relying on an elected post.

“With an elected sheriff, the county has had to maneuver different ways to create checks and balances on the sheriff,” the motion states. “However, it has become increasingly clear that the sheriff’s blatant disregard for transparency and accountability requires a more forceful response.”

The board motion comes after the civilian oversight commission called for the sheriff’s resignation, unanimously approving a resolution concluding that it had “lost confidence in Sheriff Villanueva’s ability to effectively govern the sheriff’s department. He should resign immediately.”

In advance of the final vote on that resolution, Villanueva dismissed the commission as a political tool — though it was instituted in response to jail violence that predated his tenure — and accused the group of punishing him for investigating potential corruption.

“It is becoming painfully obvious this commission is acting in retaliation against the sheriff for his efforts in investigating potential criminal conduct from county officials and for challenging the legality of subpoenaing the sheriff himself versus the LASD,” Villanueva wrote in a statement posted to the department website. “The sheriff will remain focused on serving the residents of Los Angeles County.”

The City of West Hollywood pays the Sheriff’s Department about $20 million a year to provide law enforcement services. And despite the controversy over Villanueva and the Council’s propensity to issue declarations on other controversial issues, it has not taken a public stand on Villanueva. However, at last week’s virtual City Council meeting, Councilmember John D’Amico was critical of requests that Villanueva resign as was Kristin Cook, a longtime city employee who, as director of public safety, oversees the city’s relationship with the Sheriff’s Department.

In making the argument for taking more drastic action, Ridley-Thomas and Kuehl highlight what they characterize as Villanueva’s “inability to balance the LASD budget,” pointing to his unilateral moves to cut youth programs and eliminate the parks services bureau, actions that have also drawn criticism from the deputies union.

For his part, the sheriff has said the board has forced him into the position of cutting programs to protect the most important elements of public safety. He has long accused the board of failing to give him a chance to succeed, pointing to their endorsement of his opponent as evidence of their alleged animosity toward him, and gone directly to the public in making his case.

In an Oct. 16 letter posted on his department’s website and titled “The Truth About LASD,” Villanueva laid out his accomplishments as sheriff, including a moratorium on ICE transfers without a judicial warrant and hiring a more diverse workforce. He pushed back against those who think he hasn’t done enough to eradicate deputy cliques, saying he has terminated 68 employees and supported criminal charges against 15 individuals in connection with related misconduct.

“In closing, I will say to those members of the political establishment who wish to lead the charge and demand my resignation, let’s start working together to build a brighter future for all,” Villanueva wrote. “To that end, I will continue to maintain laser-focused on serving the community and would love to be joined by the Board of Supervisors in better serving our communities.”

Ridley-Thomas and Kuehl will need just one more vote to pass their motion, though additional support — including among state legislators — would likely be needed to actually implement any changes. One challenged elected officials face is possibly offending the Association of Los Angeles Deputy Sheriff’s, a union that strongly supports Villanueva. Many people running for office seek an endorsement from ALADS, which has endorsed West Hollywood City Councilmember John Duran in his re-election campaign last year and endorsed Mayor Lindsey Horvath last year.

The motion calls for a report back in 30 days.

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Joshua88
Joshua88
1 month ago

Just wondering what the track record is for dismissal and recommendations for criminal charges.

Ardy
Ardy
1 month ago

Love Wehoville. Good job, Hank. So, Kristen Cook, Director of Public Safety, STILL has her obscenely-compensated job even though she made a toxic working environment, according to her entire department? How does that happen? If any of us average Joes did that, we’d be out on the street ASAP. Why does CIty Hall protect these kinds of people?

Alan Strasburg
Alan Strasburg
1 month ago

One wonders why a civil servant should be making highly political statements at city council meetings. Her job is to manage the contract, without political commentary which exposes her biases, which have been long known. What she does as a private citizen is her business, but she is acting in a capacity as a public servant, doing the people’s business.

Manny
Manny
1 month ago

Sheila Kuehl, who’s that? Never heard of her.

Art
Art
1 month ago
Reply to  Manny

Guess you’ve not been around these here parts very long! A proven fighter for our rights.

Observer
Observer
1 month ago
Reply to  Manny

Oh, Manny, such the jester. You know full well who Sheila is. LOL !

JF1
JF1
1 month ago

vital progress is being undone, and community trust is rapidly eroding” YEAH, but becuase of our “leaders” and not the sheriff. We need to oust them!

Art
Art
1 month ago
Reply to  JF1

Did you read the article? He’s not transparent and allows gangs in the department.

Steve Martin
Steve Martin
1 month ago

The election of Villanueva was unfortunate and his tenure as Sheriff exposes all the reasons why we need to have a Sheriff that is appointed and under the direction of the Board of Supervisors and thus accountable to the public. Supposedly elected as a “reformer”, Villanueva has done more than any of his recent predecessors to roll back reform and torpedo common sense policies to make the Sheriff’s Department more responsive and accountable. I have been working on Sheriff’s reform since the 1980s when I represented Bruce Boland, the West Hollywood deputy who was wrongfully terminated when the Department figured… Read more »

Art
Art
1 month ago
Reply to  Steve Martin

Good points. ALADS-endorsed candidates automatically do NOT get my vote. Ever.

Weho Truth Talk
Weho Truth Talk
1 month ago

D’Amico against Villanueva resigning?

Yeah, it’s time to get rid of D’Amico. He is up in 2022.

Art
Art
1 month ago

Agreed. Used to support him. no longer.

WeHo Poster
WeHo Poster
1 month ago

As much of an embarrassment as Villanueva is, the sheriff is an elected office. Changing this to an appointed office would only increase, not decrease, the sheriff’s unresponsiveness to the people in LA County. Villanueva won his election. The better response is to run a better candidate, and also, to the extent that the Board of Supervisors can, reduce the funding of the Sheriff’s Department and make any restoration of money depend on benchmarks–e.g., elimination of the deputy gangs that still remain a problem, reduced capacity at LASD-operated jails, and the like. There are many options available here, but consolidating… Read more »

Ham Shipey
Ham Shipey
1 month ago
Reply to  WeHo Poster

agreed

Steve Martin
Steve Martin
1 month ago
Reply to  WeHo Poster

My observation is that the LAPD has been more responsive to calls for reform because the Department is not independent but is under the nominal control of the Mayor and LA City Council. I agree that the Sheriff should not be running the jails; that should be a separate department of corrections under the County. But reducing funding may only hurt the communities the Department serves and penalizes the majority of deputies–who are committed professionals.

WeHo Poster
WeHo Poster
1 month ago
Reply to  Steve Martin

Reducing funding is the only means of control available to the public.

Vigilant
Vigilant
1 month ago

You mean those attempting to oust Villaneuva didn’t procure a legal assessment for their plan? Kuehl, Ridley Thomas et al? More career door stops the public doors not need. Don’t call Dyran and Horvath for advice as they are even further out in left field closest to the swamp.

Vigilant
Vigilant
1 month ago
Reply to  Vigilant

Oh dear, these typos appeared in the ether will need to pause even after a proof read………….