Villanueva responds to call for resignation

Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva

Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva indicated he’s not going anywhere, despite a call for his resignation backed by multiple county leaders and members of the civilian commission that  oversees the Sheriff’s Department. 

In a statement issued Thursday, Villanueva said the call was “morally repugnant” and direct retaliation for his efforts in exposing potential corruption. 

“It is becoming painfully obvious this commission is acting in retaliation against the sheriff for his efforts in investigating potential criminal conduct from county officials and for challenging the legality of subpoenaing the sheriff himself versus the LASD,” he said in the statement. “The sheriff will remain focused on serving the residents of Los Angeles County as he leads the department in investigating the ambush, overseeing the response to the Bobcat Fire evacuations, and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic’s impact to the jail system.”

On Thursday, the Civilian Oversight Commission agreed to formally call for the sheriff’s resignation or take a vote of no confidence at its next meeting, which is scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 15. 

“It is with great reluctance that I’m calling for Sheriff (Alex) Villanueva to resign,” said Commissioner Rob Bonner, a formal federal judge and former head of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. “I do not take this step lightly and only do so because it has become apparent that he has demonstrated on multiple occasions that he lacks the judgment needed to be sheriff, and that he is unable to provide the leadership needed by the Sheriff’s Department.” 

The sheriff’s position is elected, meaning he can only be removed from office via a recall effort or to vote him out in a regular election. His term ends in 2022. 

Bonner, whose comments were supported by several members of the commission, said Villanueva is the only sheriff “in modern Los Angeles history,” who does not have an effective relationship with the county Board of Supervisors. 

County Supervisor Kathryn Barger, whose 5th District includes the Santa Clarita Valley, responded with the following statement when asked whether she supported the call for Villanueva’s resignation: 

“The sheriff is an elected official who was voted into office by the people he represents. Since he was elected, I have raised concerns several times, beginning with his decision to rehire a deputy who was previously fired (a decision which was upheld by the Civil Service Commission); his lack of transparency and accountability; and his ongoing disregard for the county budget to name a few. I support the men and women within the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and feel that his leadership is undermining their work.”

Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Sheila Kuehl, as well as L.A. City Councilman David Ryu, echoed support for the sheriff’s resignation. 

The comments come on the heels of several back-and-forth moments between the sheriff and the supervisors, including Villanueva accusing the county of underfunding the Sheriff’s Department by $400 million and calling the board’s vote that replaced him with former county CEO Sachi Hamai as the chief of emergency operations a “power grab.” Villanueva has also been subpoenaed by the commission to testify about his handling of the COVID-19 outbreak in county jails. 

Barger, along with Inspector General Max Huntsman, have also been critical of Villanueva and have repeated calls for more transparency and oversight of the sheriff over investigations into multiple incidents, such as the fatal shootings of Andres Guardado, Dijon Kizzee, the arrest of a reporter who covered a protest in Lynwood after the shootings of two deputies in Compton and a 911 call involving a high-profile Santa Clarita Valley incident Aug. 7, in which the department was questioned over guns being drawn on several teenagers.

“There is a pattern that is growing a great concern to me with the sheriff and his lack of transparency, and he’s doing a disservice to all the men and women within his department by not cooperating with the inspector general,” said Barger in a previous interview. 

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