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LA County Measure A: Charter Amendment to Remove Sheriff
Voters will decide whether to amend the L.A. County charter to allow the Board of Supervisors to remove an elected sheriff from office for misconduct.
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The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted in August to place a proposed charter amendmenton the November ballot that would give the board the power to remove an elected sheriff from office by a four-fifths vote for criminal conduct or repeated failure to do their job. This is showing up on your ballot as L.A. County Measure A.

Providing authority to remove an elected sheriff for cause

Shall the measure amending the County of Los Angeles Charter to grant the Board of Supervisors authority to remove an elected Sheriff from office for cause, including violation of law related to a Sheriff's duties, flagrant or repeated neglect of duties, misappropriation of funds, willful falsification of documents, or obstructing an investigation, by a four-fifths vote of the Board of Supervisors, after written notice and an opportunity to be heard, be adopted?

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  • Proposition 30: Why Lyft is the biggest funder of this ballot measure

Head to the Voter Game Plan homepage for guides to the rest of your ballot.

The sheriff is elected every four years, so the voters can remove them when their term is up. In addition, there are three other ways a sheriff could be removed from office:

  1. A voter recall
  2. A misconduct conviction by a court following an accusation by a civil grand jury
  3. Conviction in a trial requested by the state Attorney General challenging a sheriff’s right to continue to hold office after that sheriff has been convicted of certain crimes, such as bribery

If the charter amendment passes in November, there will be a fourth way that a sheriff can be removed during the middle of his term: four votes in favor of removal by the five-person Board of Supervisors.
The new path for removal sought by the Board of Supervisors is somewhat similar to what exists in San Bernardino County. In 2002, voters there gave their Board of Supervisors the power to remove the sheriff, district attorney, and other county officers by a four-fifths vote for misconduct.

Our guide to the L.A. sheriff’s race has a detailed rundown of what the L.A. County sheriff does (along with an explanation of the issues facing the department and information on the two candidates: incumbent Alex Villanueva and challenger Robert Luna).

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Arguments For

The July 12 motion by Supervisors Holly Mitchell and Hilda Solis argues that people should not have to wait for the next election or mount a costly recall campaign to remove a corrupt sheriff, nor should they have to wait for a sheriff to be indicted.

The motion states a “lack of accountability has been an enduring feature of county sheriffs” but makes it clear it was the actions of the current sheriff, Alex Villanueva, that led them to propose a charter amendment.

Mitchell and Solis say the board “has been limited in its ability to serve as a sufficient check against the Sheriff’s flagrant disregard of lawful oversight and accountability.” Right now, the board only controls the sheriff’s budget.

“The current Sheriff has been openly hostile to oversight and transparency and has tested the functionality of existing oversight structures by consistently resisting and obstructing these systems of checks and balances,” the motion says.

It says Villanueva’s actions include:

  • “defying subpoenas and refusing to appear at [Civilian Oversight Commission] meetings,”
  • “refusing to cooperate with the [Office of Inspector General’s] attempts at independent investigations and monitoring,”
  • “intimidating and harassing individuals who are tasked with oversight,”
  • “failing to comply with federal court orders to provide information on deputy misconduct,”
  • “litigating with the County to rehire deputies whose employment was terminated due to misconduct.”

Mitchell and Solis argue that “[w]ithout structural changes to strengthen oversight, future sheriffs, each of whom have seen the actions of their predecessors, will have the opportunity to operate without meaningful accountability.”
Amending the charter “would allow the Board to act expeditiously to remove a corrupt sheriff rather than wait for a grand jury to convene or a recall election to be held,” they conclude.

As of Aug. 17, 2022, the county registrar’s office does not list any committees working for the ballot measure.

Arguments Against

In a July 11 letter to the supervisors,Villanueva argues the charter amendment “would allow corrupt board members to intimidate sheriffs from carrying out their official duties to investigate crime.” Here are his other key arguments:

  • The amendment would usurp the will of the voters by allowing the board to remove a sheriff before the end of his term.
  • The amendment would make the board “the judge, jury, and executioner for the office of the sheriff.”
  • The L.A. County measure differs from San Bernardino County’s ordinance because it singles out the sheriff for potential removal. San Bernardino’s covers all elected county officials. That difference “will likely be suspect in the eyes of the court,” the sheriff says. 
  • The board is prohibited from removing a sheriff because the office is enshrined in the state constitution. He promises a legal challenge if it passes.
  • The Board of Supervisors is biased. The sheriff asserts that it was “highly unethical” for the board to place the measure on the ballot “when this Board has already announced its public support for my opponent” in the November election for sheriff. (All five supervisors have endorsed Luna.) “It appears to me you are using your political offices to willfully affect the outcome of an election, also known as electioneering,” he says.

Supervisor Kathryn Barger, the lone dissenting vote on the motion to place the charter amendment on the November ballot, shares some of Villanueva’s arguments against the charter amendment. Barger said “shame on the board” in opposing the measure during its July 12 meeting.

She said the proposed amendment sets a “dangerous precedent” because the board is “targeting an individual.” Giving such power to the board would be “diluting the voice of the voters,” she argued. Barger asked why the measure doesn’t give the board the option to remove all county officers.

As of Aug. 17, 2022, the county registrar’s office does not list any committees working against the ballot measure.

More resources:

More Voter Guides

City of Los Angeles

L.A. County

  • Sheriff: Compare the two candidates for L.A. County sheriff
  • Water Agencies: Learn what they do and what to look for in a candidate

How to evaluate judges

California propositions

  • Propositions 26 and 27: The difference between the sports betting ballot measures
  • Proposition 29: Why kidney dialysis is on your ballot for the third time
  • Proposition 30: Why Lyft is the biggest funder of this ballot measure

Head to the Voter Game Plan homepage for guides to the rest of your ballot.