LA County supervisors grant themselves ‘illegal’ power to remove sitting sheriff

(Video: Fox 11)

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors took their opposition to Sheriff Alex Villanueva to new heights Monday with a power grab he called an “illegal motion” to make themselves “judge, jury and executioner” for his office.

Since taking office in 2018, Villanueva has stood in contrast to the soft-on-crime policies dominating California politics and the draconian measures pushed in response to the COVID pandemic. Now, ahead of a Nov. 8 election, the board demonstrated that they are not willing to leave this decision up to the will of the people and that they must have the authority to remove a sitting sheriff.

Fox 11 reported on Agenda Item 12 that received a 4-1 vote from the board led by chair Holly Mitchell that would lead to their ability to unseat the sheriff “for cause” with a four-fifths vote. Cause was defined as “a violation of any law related to the performance of their duties as sheriff; flagrant or repeated neglect of duties; a misappropriation of public funds or property; willful falsification of a relevant official statement or document; or obstruction of any investigation into the conduct of the sheriff by…any government agency with jurisdiction to conduct such an investigation.”

Villanueva fired back in a statement that he posted on social media that stated in part, “This motion is a recipe for public corruption, particularly when ’cause’ remains so broad and undefined. Allowing political appointees with an agenda to determine ’cause’ is fundamentally flawed.”

He went on to write, “It appears you are making yourselves the judge, jury and executioner for the office of the sheriff, nullifying the will of the voters. This illegal motion seeks to undermine the role of the sheriff and render the office subordinate to the Board of Supervisors. On its face, your proposed ordinance language is not a proper reading of the law and will be challenged on these multiple grounds.”

The board’s overreach had been a major sticking point for Villanueva after they had mandated all 110,000 employees of Los Angeles County be vaccinated by Oct. 1 or face termination. As was reported, the sheriff refused to enforce the mandates he referred to as “a suicide pact” that would result in the termination of 4,000 deputies.

“This is nothing more than another politically motivated stunt by the board, which has no bearing on public health, but will definitely harm public safety,” he said at the time.

The latest move also appeared to be politically motivated as the campaign of former Long Beach Police Chief Robert Luna, Villanueva’s opponent heading into the November election, announced Monday that they had received the endorsement of all five members of the Board of Supervisors.

Even Supervisor Kathryn Barger, the dissenting vote and no fan of Villanueva’s said, “To me it just smacks of politics and I really do believe that this is driven by individual not by office.”

The Republican National Committee also spoke up on behalf of the sheriff whom Fox 11 reported was a registered Democrat. Their statement read: “Not only is Sheriff Villanueva an elected official, he’s one of the few who has been willing to stand up to the board for reducing law enforcement funding and effectively endangering the lives of Angelenos…This decision from the L.A. County Board of Supervisors would attempt to bully the elected sheriff into doing what they want and would be yet another blow to a free and fair democracy, thanks to California Democrats.”

Drafts of the required paperwork to include the motion on the ballot are expected to be completed by county attorneys before July 26 at which time the board will hold an additional vote to determine if it should proceed.


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