Supes discuss options for removing sheriff, limiting his powers

Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva

Following recent clashes between Sheriff Alex Villanueva and the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, the board continued a motion Tuesday that looked at county supervisors’ ability to limit the sheriff’s powers and ultimately remove him from office.

As the California Constitution limits the scope of the authority the Board of Supervisors has over the sheriff, and in turn, the sheriff’s scope of authority over departmental personnel and operations, the motion is set to look at legislative changes that could allow the board to authorize an appointed sheriff, remove certain existing responsibilities of the sheriff and “curtail the sheriff’s resistance to transparency, accountability and the faithful performance of duties.” 

Villanueva addressed the board ahead of the decision to continue the matter, stating he’s been more transparent and more accountable than any previous sheriff and arguing that if he had the budget he needed, he would have an easier time getting supervisors the information they requested.  

“Providing this funding will greatly increase the speed and efficiency of each request,” Villanueva said. “Transparency and accountability do not come cheap — they are expensive. This is why I fought so hard regarding budgetary issues.”

Villanueva went on to say that he is committed to working with the Board of Supervisors to serve L.A. County residents.

“We are a county family, and when there’s collaboration, we can do great things,” he added. “Let’s set aside the past and work out our differences. … I look forward to finding common ground we can all stand together on, in the interest of public safety and fiscal responsibility.” 

This comes as the Civilian Oversight Commission, an independent advisory oversight commission created by the board in 2014 to oversee operations of the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department, unanimously voted to formally call on Villanueva to step down based on “grave concerns” regarding his leadership and failure to cooperate with the commission in their Oct. 15 meeting.

“Given the recent but persistent refusal to provide the transparency and accountability that the community rightly demands, the county should consider whether the status of the sheriff’s office should be re-examined in order to better serve the more than 10 million residents of the county,” the motion stated. “The need for mechanisms to hold an elected sheriff accountable is painfully obvious today, at a time when communities across the county are reeling from violence — including much-too-frequent deputy-involved shootings.”

The motion was introduced on the Tuesday meeting’s supplemental agenda, and if passed, would instruct county counsel, in conjunction with the inspector general and the acting chief executive officer, to consult with the executive director of the commission and justice advocates, to report back to the Board of Supervisors with options for removing or impeaching the sheriff.

“Under the current sheriff, hard-fought vital progress is being undone, and community trust is rapidly eroding,” the motion continued. “While the board has been able to navigate challenging times with previous sheriffs, this sheriff’s actions demonstrate the dire need to explore options for removing a sheriff who refuses oversight or, at a minimum, mitigating damages caused by unacceptable behavior.”

The Board of Supervisors is now set to reconvene on the matter in their Nov. 10 meeting. 

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