By Jim Holt
Senior Investigative Reporter
County supervisors approved a motion Tuesday giving the power to fire county employees who don’t comply with its COVID-19 vaccination policy, including employees of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, in the hands of the county’s personnel director.
In 4-1 vote with Supervisor Kathryn Barger voting “no,” the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors authorized the county’s personnel director to discipline any county employee for noncompliance with the county’s COVID-19 vaccination policy or related directives.
Although the matter was approved without discussion, county lawyers explained the change in a letter to the board.
“Our office prepared for your consideration the enclosed analysis and ordinance amending Title 5 – Personnel, Appendix 1 of the Los Angeles County (County) Code to provide the director of personnel authority to discipline any county employee for noncompliance with the county’s COVID-19 vaccination policy or related directives,” County Counsel Rodrigo A. Castro-Silva wrote.
He noted in his letter that his office prepared the ordinance after talking with the Department of Human Resources and Chief Executive Office.
“As directed by your board, the Chief Executive Office met with the county’s labor partners regarding the effects of the ordinance,” Castro-Silva explained in his letter.
He recommended that the board hold a public hearing to adopt the ordinance. That public hearing is slated to happen on April 5.
Although Tuesday’s decision applies to all county employees, it is now the latest development in an ongoing power struggle between the board and Sheriff Alex Villanueva.
In February, citing a refusal by the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department to give county lawyers documents about deputy shootings, allegations of misconduct and body camera footage, county supervisors initiated efforts to take over the job of responding to the public’s request for public records.
The board unanimously approved a motion instructing county counsel to come up with an ordinance for processing requests for public records and taking the job away from the LASD.
That same day, Villanueva sent a cease-and-desist letter to the board demanding supervisors quit referring to groups within the LASD as “deputy gangs.”
In November, he pushed back on the county’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate, predicting the termination of 4,000 deputies. In 2020, the board considered seeking ways to remove the elected sheriff from office.
The ordinance — still to be addressed at the public hearing — stipulates:
• The director of personnel may suspend or discharge any employee not in compliance with the county’s COVID-19 mandates.
• The director is also allowed to “take any action described” under the new ruling and his authority supersedes the authority of the “appointing power.”
• The director may also delegate to subordinates the exercise of judgment or discretion to take any action described in the new ruling.