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LA County Supes Vote To Explore Options For Removing Sheriff Alex Villanueva

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L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva. (L.A. Sheriff's Department)
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The L.A. County Board of Supervisors today narrowly approved a motion that calls for county counsel and other staff to report back with “options for removing or impeaching” the elected sheriff, Alex Villanueva.

It’s the latest blow to Villanueva from a board that has clashed with him over transparency in shooting investigations, oversight, deputy misconduct and the department’s budget.

The motion points to the department’s blocking of oversight into the Andres Guardado shooting investigation, and “$149 million over the last 5 years to settle lawsuits and satisfy judgments stemming from Deputy-involved law enforcement incidents such as civil-rights violations, excessive use of force, sexual assaults, and killings.”

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas co-authored the motion, which also refers to “eroding community trust.”

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“It’s vital for the county’s residents to know that their public safety concerns have been heard,” Ridley-Thomas said.

The board split 3-2, with Supervisors Janice Hahn and Kathryn Barger opposing the motion. They argued that, while the board surely has its differences with the sheriff, it’s up to the voters to recall Villanueva or vote him out. Villanueva has two more years in his term.

Addressing the board before the vote, Villanueva listed his accomplishments—- including drastically lowering the jail population during the COVID-19 pandemic — and said he’s dedicated to transparency.

“Everything is above the board and subject to inspections,” Villanueva said.

The board — which controls the sheriff’s budget but does not have authority over him — has limited legal options for trying to remove him. He could be removed for corrupt misconduct under Government Code Sec. 3060, in a process that would start with a grand jury and end up in a court trial. The supervisors could also ask voters to amend the county charter to allow the board to remove the sheriff for cause.

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The Sheriff Civilian Oversight Commission — which has also clashed with Villanueva over oversight and transparency — last month called for his resignation.

The supervisors also directed staff to explore ways of stripping the sheriff of some responsibilities and increasing accountability.

Staff has until January 5 to report back.

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