Two County Supes Join Civilian Oversight Panel Member's Call for Sheriff Villanueva To Resign

L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva. (Kyle Grillot for LAist)

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L.A. County supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Sheila Kuehl have added their voices to a call this week for the resignation of L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva.

On Twitter, Ridley-Thomas wrote: "I remain deeply troubled by the Sheriff's conduct and the way he has interfered with advancing reform and enhancing accountability." The tweet went on to say: "It. Is. Time."

According to the L.A. Times, "Kuehl said she strongly supported the call for Villanueva's resignation, holding that he has done nothing about deputy cliques within the department and that the county pays out millions of dollars in response to claims of excessive force by deputies."

L.A. City Councilmember David Ryu also chimed in, writing on Twitter that Villanueva "is not fairly serving the people of LA County. He must resign."

Responding on Twitter this morning, Villanueva accused officials of waging a retaliatory "proxy war" against him.

The push by local politicians for Villanueva's resignation comes on the heels of a statement by Robert Bonner, the most conservative member of the Sheriff Civilian Oversight Commission, on Thursday calling on Villanueva to resign. Bonner asserted that "he's demonstrated on multiple occasions that he lacks the judgement needed to be the sheriff and that he's unable to provide the leadership needed by the Sheriff's Department."

A former federal judge who ran the Drug Enforcement Administration for three years in the 1990s, Bonner said he called on Villanueva to step down "with great reluctance."

Commissioner Patricia Ocen echoed Bonner's call, and Chair Lael Rubin directed an ad hoc committee to consider whether to draft a resolution calling on the sheriff to resign, expressing a vote of no confidence, or something else.

The sheriff, who has had a contentious relationship with the commission, Inspector General Max Huntsman and the County Board of Supervisors almost from the time he took office in December 2018, dismissed the calls for his resignation.

The oversight commission is "just part of the echo chamber of the [Board of Supervisors]," he told a news conference. "There's a fine line between being a watchdog and a political attack dog, and that's pretty much the line they've crossed, along with Max Huntsman ... a long time ago. This is just the latest example of that."

In a separate statement, the Sheriff's Department said it's "morally repugnant" for the commission to discuss resignation when "two members of our department are recovering from a life-threatening ambush." It accused the panel of "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."

In listing some of the reasons why he's calling on Villanueva to resign, Bonner said the sheriff has resisted efforts at oversight, "dragged his feet" on reforms and has "gone out of his way to alienate and even insult" supervisors rather than pursue a positive relationship with the board.

As one example of the sheriff's alleged lack of judgement and "lack of the ability to assess and reconsider his actions," Bonner referred to Villanueva's reinstatement of former deputy Carl Mandoyan, who had been fired by the previous sheriff for domestic violence and dishonesty.

"Not only has the sheriff resisted providing information needed for legitimate oversight to the inspector general," Bonner said, but "in what can only be described as a crude intimidation tactic," the department launched a criminal investigation of Huntsman.

Bonner noted that he and the oversight panel applauded Villanueva for issuing a policy last spring prohibiting deputies from joining cliques that violate the law or department policy. "But he has done little or nothing to enforce that policy," he said.

Bonner criticized Villanueva for not firing one of his spokespeople after she tweeted "racist, loaded comments." And he called out the sheriff's "unexplained and unexplainable" handling of deputies who improperly took photos of the Kobe Bryant crash scene.

In a separate development, Huntsman told the oversight panel that after gathering preliminary information on the arrest of KPCC/LAist reporter Josie Huang while she was filming an arrest last weekend, "all evidence we have currently gathered suggests that significant parts of the claims made by the [Sheriff's] Department may have been false."

Huntsman said his office has "requested the cooperation of the Sheriff's Department and not received it."

UPDATES:

Sep. 18, 9:40 a.m.: This article was updated to include calls for Villanueva's resignation by local officials, and Villanueva's response on Twitter.

This article was originally published on Sep. 17.