Unions sue county over November charter amendment

Los Angeles County Seal.
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Multiple police and first-responder unions have filed a lawsuit to remove a charter amendment on the November ballot looking to increase spending on housing and mental health services while decreasing funding for law enforcement. 

The measure has received criticism from multiple groups, prompting a lawsuit with 15 unions that include the Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs, Association of Public Defender Investigators, American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, District Council 36 and the Los Angeles County Firefighters Local 1014. 

Filed by the Coalition of County Unions in a county Superior Court, the lawsuit alleges that the Board of Supervisors “violated Los Angeles County Code Employee Relations Ordinance when it failed to provide members of Petitioner Coalition of County Unions with at least 90 calendar days’ notice prior to placing the proposed charter amendment on the ballot,” according to court documents. 

The lawsuit also alleges that the proposed charter amendment is unlawful and illegal because the board “cannot delegate authority over the county budget to the electorate” and because “it limits or restricts the power of future Board of Supervisors to act.” 

ALADS officials were unavailable for comment Thursday, but Luz Villarreal, public affairs director, referred to previous comments issued by ALADS President Ron Hernandez. 

“Let me make it perfectly clear, we are in no way challenging funding for special programs, we are challenging the process for this proposed measure,” Hernandez said before the board in a previous meeting. 

Supervisor Kathryn Barger has also raised similar disapproval, saying the initiative process has lacked transparency and that the move would further challenge the county due to the COVID-19 crisis. 

Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, who introduced the measure, said the measure would not “tie our hands” but rather “exhibits our priorities.” 

Sheriff Alex Villanueva has also criticized the proposal, saying it’s a measure in disguise to significantly cut the department’s budget. 

The unions ask that Dean Logan, registrar-recorder/county clerk for the county, remove the proposed amendment off the Nov. 3 ballot, according to the lawsuit. They are also advising the public to vote “No” on the measure. 

The lawsuit comes after the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 Tuesday to place the Reimagine L.A. initiative on the ballot before voters. Barger, whose 5th District represents the Santa Clarita Valley, has consistently opposed the amendment. 

If approved, at least 10% of the county’s unrestricted funding would divert millions to community-based programs, such as affordable housing and rent assistance, job training, and mental health and social services. Those funds would not be invested in law enforcement departments or jails and prisons. 

Based on the current $34.9 billion budget, 10% of those general dollars would amount to an estimated $360 million to $490 million, according to county Chief Executive Officer Sachi Hamai. 

Reimagine L.A. would need a majority vote in November to pass. 

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