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LA County Supervisors to ask voters for power to remove Sheriff Villanueva

CBS Los Angeles 7/8/2022 CBSLA Staff

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors is expected to vote on an agenda next week that would ask voters for the right to remove an elected sheriff from office. 

The proposed change to the county's charter could be on the ballot for November's general election would give the supervisors the power to remove a sitting elected LA County Sheriff from office if four out of five supervisors agree the sheriff is unfit for its position.

The board released the agenda item on Thursday and it comes after LA County Sheriff Alex Villanueva has been criticized by several supervisors over the Sheriff's handling of recent investigations into the department's alleged gangs within the department. 

Ultimately, the proposal would be a monumental shift in power for LA County. It also sums up the tumultuous relationship between Villanueva and LA County officials.

The motion to remove the sheriff was proposed by LA County Supervisors Janice Hahn and Hilda Solis. 

"Shame on you, Board of Supervisors. You don't get to pick and choose who the sheriff is. That's up the voters," Villanueva said during a press conference in December 2021.

Villanueva is running for re-election against former Long Beach Police Department Chief Robert Luna. 

In June, Villanueva claimed that he's hoping to keep the sheriff's autonomy whereas he believes Luna would cede his power to LA County Supervisors. 

The LA Sheriff's Department's spokesperson released a response to the Board of Supervisor's proposal.

"This new attempt by the Board of Supervisors is a continuation of the motion first initiated by former Supervisor Mark Ridley Thomas, who has now been indicted on 20 counts of public corruption while serving on the Board of Supervisors. If passed, this illegal motion would allow corrupt supervisors to intimidate sheriffs from carrying out their official duties to investigate crime," the press release stated.

Zev Yaroslavsky served five terms on the LA County Board of Supervisors and is currently a professor at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs. He told CBSLA Political Reporter Tom Wait that this move may backfire on the board. 

"I think the board is right to be frustrated with this sheriff. (They) just believe he's Donald Trump. That he's judge jury and executioner here. And it's a problem. But they need to be careful the remedy does not undermine their high ground position," Yaroslavsky said.

Since taking office in 2018, Villanueva has racked up a slew of negative headlines, including rehiring a fired deputy, clashing with his watchdog and defying the county's COVID-19 vaccine mandate. Villanueva frequently accuses the board of trying to undermine him. 

In April, a former LA County Sheriff assistant filed a whistleblower complaint claiming that she notified Villanueva about a video showing a deputy using a controversial-use-of-force on an inmate. The woman claimed that she was framed and eventually demoted after showing the video to the sheriff.

Villanueva denied knowing about the video. 

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