Oversight Commission formally calls for Villanueva’s resignation

Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva
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After a fiery call for L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva’s resignation last month, the county’s Civilian Oversight Commission voted Thursday formally calling for him to step down. 

The members’ vote came after amending the proposed resolution they would have voted on, which toggled back on pushing for his resignation and instead urged for “a productive relationship” with the commission based on “grave concerns” regarding Villanueva’s leadership and failure to cooperate with the commission. 

Several members of the public called the initial resolution’s language a “waste of time” and said commissioners should “take a stronger stance.” 

Some commission members agreed, including Rob Bonner, who first called for the sheriff’s resignation before the Oversight Commission in September, and Priscilla Ocen. 

“I don’t have confidence in (Villanueva’s) leadership and I think that this commission should take that position,” said Ocen when the board considered amending the resolution. “But again, this was a compromise and the expression of ‘raised concerns’ is at the minimum of what is warranted at this moment.”

The resolution, voted on unanimously, now reads that the commission “has lost confidence in Sheriff Villanueva’s ability to effectively govern the Sheriff’s Department. He should resign immediately.” 

In deciding whether to make the amendment, commissioner James Harris said that while “words do matter” he felt concerned over calling for his resignation would not lead to any changes as “the only way the sheriff can be removed from office is by a recall election.” 

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. 

Villanueva, who did not join the virtual meeting, said Wednesday during a news conference “It’s time we have an elected oversight commission,” adding current members are political appointees of the L.A. County Board of Supervisors and do not represent “the breadth of people’s opinions on law enforcement” in the county. 

“You go to an Oversight Commission (meeting and) you listen to the entire agenda and everything, but you go to a town hall — the ones that we host — and they’re entirely different,” he said. “They’re worried about basic things: how we interface with law enforcement; traffic safety; nuisance abatement; homeless situation — all these things that impact the daily lives of residents. But you listen to the agendas from the oversight commission, it’s just political drama drawn out by the Board of Supervisors as part of their proxy war, and we just got to keep that in mind.” 

Villanueva has yet to issue a public statement regarding Thursday’s vote. 

The resolution highlights multiple conflicts between Villaneuva and the commission, including the sheriff’s failure to comply with multiple subpoenas, and comes on the heels of several disputes between him and the county supervisors regarding body cameras and COVID-19 jail outbreaks. 

In a previous statement, Supervisor Kathryn Barger, whose 5th District includes the Santa Clarita Valley, said Villanueva’s leadership undermines the work of the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department. 

Commissioners clarified that while they’re calling for his resignation, the panel remains interested in having a productive relationship with the sheriff. 

“The ball’s in his court, right?” said Ocen. “He’s the one that closed the door — and if he wants to reopen it, we remain willing to work with him.” 

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