The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors has fired another salvo in its ongoing battle with L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva, this time taking away his power to terminate deputies who don’t go along with vaccine mandates.
In a 4-1 vote Tuesday, the board approved an ordinance that gives the power to discipline or terminate employees who don’t comply with the county’s COVID-19 vaccine requirements to the county personnel director, and takes it away from county department heads, Fox News reports.
Although the supervisors took the authority away from all the department heads, it’s hard not to see it as a swipe at Villanueva, who has previously refused to fire deputies who did not adhere to COVID mandates.
As Supervisor Janice Hahn said last month when the board first requested that new enforcement policies be drafted, “Unfortunately, the Sheriff’s Department is the only department in the county that’s refused to implement this policy. I think we were left with no other choice.”
In that motion, the supervisors cited an “inconsistent application and enforcement” of the county vaccine policy and a “wide variety from department to department.” At the time, 81 percent of the county’s 100,000 employees were fully vaccinated, while the rate for the sheriff’s department was just 60 percent, Fox notes.
Villanueva has long maintained that strict vaccine enforcement would do more harm to his department than good.
In February, the Hill reported, Villanueva said in a statement, “The issue has become so politicized. There are entire groups of employees that are willing to be fired and laid off rather than get vaccinated, so I don’t want to be in a position to lose 5 percent, 10 percent of my workforce overnight on a vaccine mandate.”
Villanueva also told Fox that L.A.’s mandates are “strictly a political ideology,” saying, “There is nothing that is driving them that’s based on science or combating the coronavirus because we’re surrounded by five counties who don’t have vaccine mandates, and now they’re actively recruiting members of my department.”
He added, “We’re in the middle of a crime wave. We’re the most understaffed law enforcement agency in the entire nation, and on top of that, they want to erode our presence even further.”
In defending the vaccine mandate, Supervisor Sheila Kuehl—who introduced the motion with Supervisor Holly Mitchell—has said, “Not all of our department heads have recognized that this policy is critically necessary and will save lives. We are not going to permit county lives to be jeopardized by an individual decision not to comply with county policy.”
Only Supervisor Kathryn Barger voted against the measure.
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