LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors will consider a proposal that would ask voters in November to give the panel power to remove an elected sheriff from office for cause.
“The people of Los Angeles would be better served if the Supervisors spent their time doing their jobs by reducing homelessness and improving healthcare, instead of trying to seize even more power,” said Sheriff Alex Villanueva. ”The Sheriff is an elected position, just like the Supervisors. Just as the Sheriff has no business asking for power to fire the Supervisors, the reverse is also true.”
The board is sending a message that voters don’t know better and if they were to re-elect Sheriff Villanueva then the Board would step in to usurp the will of the voters and remove them on their own.
The Republican National Committee issued a statement Friday blasting the proposal as “another prime example of how Democrats like to change the rules when they don’t get their way.”
“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,” according to the RNC. “… 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.”
The motion by Board Chair Holly Mitchell and Supervisor Hilda Solis would direct county attorneys to draft the required documents and ordinance to put before voters on Nov. 8 that would allow the board to remove an elected sheriff with a four-fifths vote.
Sources close to Mitchell share she is still under the influence of her predecessor Mark Ridley-Thomas who led her around the County while she campaigned for his seat.
“She hasn’t passed any significant legislation of her own and has instead focused on her donors instead of those who voted for her. How many people are still waiting for rent relief, housing, and the like?” said the insider. “Instead all we see are her campaign donors on billboards around the district promoting the COVID vaccine.”
Under the motion, such a move would be allowed “for cause,” with such cause 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 the Inspector General, Sheriff Civilian Oversight Commission, or any government agency with jurisdiction to conduct such an investigation.”
Obstruction of an investigation is a slippery slope when law enforcement doesn’t want to jeopardize the integrity of an investigation.
A sheriff’s department representative called the maneuver a “politically motivated stunt” orchestrated while Sheriff Alex Villanueva is seeking reelection.
“If passed, this illegal motion would allow corrupt supervisors to intimidate sheriffs from carrying out their official duties to investigate crime,” said the statement. “Creating a pathway for politicians to remove a duly elected sheriff is a recipe for corruption, particularly when `cause’ is whatever suits their political agenda.”
Villanueva has repeatedly clashed with the board during his time in office, accusing members of defunding his agency at the expense of public safety, while also rebuffing subpoenas to appear before the county’s Civilian Oversight Commission.
The motion does not mention Villanueva by name, but states, “The current sheriff has been openly hostile to oversight and transparency and has tested the functionality of existing oversight structures by consistently resisting and obstructing these systems of checks and balances.”
The motion also refers to previous sheriffs Lee Baca, who was sent to federal prison on corruption charges, and Peter Pitchess, who “resisted any involvement in the first internal investigation of deputy gangs from outside the department.”
According to the motion, despite board efforts to provide oversight of the department, “the board has nevertheless been limited in its ability to serve as a sufficient check against the sheriff’s flagrant disregard of lawful oversight and accountability.”
If the motion is approved, county attorneys would draft the necessary paperwork to put the issue on the November ballot, then return to the board for a July 26 vote on whether to move forward.
Conversely, in the city of Los Angeles, the council removed a duly elected official from office when they suspended Mark Ridley-Thomas after being named in a 21 count federal indictment. Residents called the move illegal and the state’s attorney general occured when he issued an opinion to allow MRT to fight for his seat back in court.
That is an action that could come back to bite them in the butt.