LA County Sheriff Alex Villanueva continues to butt heads with the board of supervisors. Supervisor’s Mark Ridley-Thomas and Kathryn Barger remain at the forefront of clashing with Villanueva on a broad range of topics. Their attempts to diminish his role as their equal, as they are all elected by voters, has turned into a nasty power struggle.
Villanueva caught heat over the rehiring of a campaign aide who was terminated by the Sheriff’s department for allegations of stalking a colleague. Villanueva also saw his powers stripped from commanding emergency services related to the COVID-19 pandemic and saw a reduction in the new year’s budget over inflated overtime costs.
To combat the $400 million budget deficit, Villanueva is shutting down two substations in both Barger and Ridley-Thomas’ district. State representatives have yet to weigh in on the Sheriff’s decisions, however, Ridley-Thomas is using constituents in the affluent Baldwin-Halls, Windsor-Hills, Del Rey and Ladera Heights area to publicly blast the shut down of services.
“Our operating cost is $3.9 billion to sustain the way it is, they’re giving me $3.5 billion and telling me good luck with the other $400 million,” Sheriff Alex Villanueva said in an interview with FOX 11. LA County is weighing options on how to cut services amid a projected $2.5 billion budget gap between now and June 2021.
California is facing a $54.3 billion deficit of its own over the next two years, said LA County CEO Sachi Hamai.
Residents in Mark Ridley-Thomas’ district disagree and voiced their concerns in a newsletter released on his district website.
“I find the Sheriff’s closing of the Marina del Rey station unacceptable,” said Florence Ochi of the Ladera Heights Civic Association. “The residents of Ladera Heights, View Park, Windsor Hills, Del Rey, as well as Marina del Rey, were blindsided by the Sheriff’s decision.”
If residents were paying attention to the ongoing battle then claims of being “blindsided” are false.
“He did not have the courtesy of meeting with any of us to learn about our communities,” Ochi added. “The closure of the station would destroy the respect and trust that has been built in all of our communities.”
That “trust” continues to erode after the Sheriff has declined to attend Civilian Oversight Commission meetings despite being subpoenaed to do so.
“If the transparency is being provided and the information is provided, what exactly is the purpose of the subpoena?” Villanueva asked. “If they are engaged in a public shaming endeavor, which it looks like at face value, well they are sadly mistaken. We are not going to be participating in that. If it is an issue about providing information so the Oversight Commission can do their job, by all means we will give them all the information we can legally give them.”
The commission is seeking details of how the jails are responding to the COVID-19 pandemic and also documents related to a lawsuit filed by Vanessa Bryant over deputies taking photos of her husband, daughter and crash victims on and/or around January 26th.
A shameless elected has used the traumatic event to draft a bill making it a misdemeanor to take photos at a crime scene. Many, including this author, sees his actions as a campaign stunt to garner free publicity for his November re-election. Every time the lawsuit is mentioned in the press, they will be able to point to his bill, without him having to spend a dime.
Villanueva said his department will be represented at Thursday’s meeting by Assistant Sheriff Bruce Chase, adding that he remains committed to making the Sheriff’s Department as transparent as possible.
Mark Ridley-Thomas terms out this year and Herb Wesson and Sen. Holly Mitchell are in a November run-off.
Wesson continues to actively campaign by making significant donations to community giveaways around the 2nd district, while Mitchell’s campaign appears to be on hiatus.
The ongoing issues with the Sheriff will no doubt be an issue for Ridley-Thomas’ replacement and voters will need to decide who is best suited to work with the current board.