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LA Sheriff-Elect Starts To 'Clean House' Even Before He Takes Office

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By Frank Stoltze and Paul Glickman

L.A. County's incoming sheriff is wasting no time carrying out his promise to "clean house." On Wednesday, five days before he's sworn in, Alex Villanueva's spokesman said the sheriff-elect is replacing his top leadership team and several other senior officials.

Villanueva will replace the undersheriff, who is the department's number two official, and all four of the assistant sheriffs who report to the undersheriff, said spokesman Danny Leserman.

Villanueva is also replacing eight of the department's 11 chiefs, the communications director and a community outreach director.

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The department's two constitutional policing advisors are being transferred to new jobs with the county and will be replaced, Leserman said. Villanueva previously said he would eliminate those two positions.

Leserman said Villanueva announced the changes in an email he sent to current Undersheriff Jacques La Berge.

It's not unusual for a sheriff to bring in his own team, but announcing the moves before taking office is uncommon. On Nov. 16, after telling LAist that he planned to remove "the overwhelming majority" of the department's top leaders, Villanueva added, "we'll decide everything on a case-by-case basis. We're not going to just say this is exactly who's going to be coming or going, we have to evaluate everybody."

Leserman said Wednesday that some of the officials were corrupt and needed to go. He said others did not have the confidence of Villanueva, a retired Sheriff's lieutenant who upset Sheriff Jim McDonnell in this month's election.

One department source who asked not to be identified accused Villanueva of carrying out a "vendetta" against good leaders and worried the sudden loss of top commanders amounts to a "brain drain" that will hurt the organization.

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Leserman said the new undersheriff will be retired Sheriff's Cmdr. Ray Leyva, and three of the assistant sheriff positions will be filled by retired Sheriff's Cmdr. Robert Olmsted, Sheriff's Capt. Tim Murakami and Sheriff's Lt. LaJuana Haselrig.


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