L.A. County Supervisors Want Sheriff Villanueva Out of Emergency Ops Top Spot

Amid the coronavirus outbreak, the Supervisors and the Sheriff find themselves at loggerheads once again

As the COVID-19 lockdown continues, the L.A. County Board of Supervisors is working to remove Sheriff Alex Villanueva from his post as the head of the county’s emergency operations center, a move some consider to be the latest salvo in the ongoing feud between Villanueva and the supervisors, the Los Angeles Times reports.

While Villanueva calls the action a “pure power grab at the worst time possible” and “a silent coup,” the supervisors say the need for a change was made clear when emergency management officials were unprepared for the Woolsey fire that killed three people and burned 97,000 acres in L.A. and Ventura in 2018. The supervisors add that they have been working toward Villanueva’s removal since last year.

The board and the sheriff have been at odds over a host of issues including budget and staffing decisions ever since Villanueva was elected in December 2018. In October 2019, the board voted unanimously in favor of compelling Villanueva’s office to turn over records to the civilian oversight board.

Villanueva believes the current attempt to remove him comes as blowback for his decision to close gun shops as nonessential businesses—reasoning that first-time gun owners in close-quarters and under stress would be a danger to themselves and others. The Sheriff reversed that decision the day after he made it, and then reversed again on Thursday in compliance with an executive order issued by Governor Gavin Newsom.

In compliance with California Governor Gavin Newsome's Executive Order, Gun & ammunition stores are not considered…

Posted by Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department on Thursday, March 26, 2020

“We should be worried about masks, about test kits,” Villanueva said Wednesday, “and I have [Supervisor] Kathryn Barger worried about guns and ammunition.”

Barger countered that she has made no comment on Villanueva’s initial attempt to close gun stores, and said the Woolsey fire proved that L.A. needs to “modernize our emergency operations efforts and align with best practices in other jurisdictions.”

A motion to turn over control of the emergency center to the county’s chief executive was brought to the board in November, a spokeswoman for Barger said.

Barger’s fellow supervisors Sheila Kuehl and Mark Ridley-Thomas also support Villanueva’s removal.

Ridley-Thomas said that in the wake of the mounting crisis, the board has no time for “petty conflicts” with the Sheriff.

Kuehl implied that the job was more than Villanueva can handle on top of his law enforcement responsibilities, saying, “I can’t imagine that anyone would say that the sheriff should be coordinating all the health departments and the homelessness outreach and placement in housing—these are all different areas of the county that have grown up since we first had that old ordinance.”

Meanwhile, even Villanueva’s own cops are getting fed up with the constant back and forth between the sheriff and the supervisors. According to Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs president Ron Hernandez, the deputies are “sick and tired” of the political drama.

“I believe the community is focused on keeping their families safe during this pandemic, and our deputies share that sentiment. These petty squabbles over power during a crisis are exactly what we don’t need,” he said. “To the sheriff and the Board of Supervisors, we say: Try acting like adults and focus on the emergency.”

RELATED: A Citizen Commission May Soon Have the Power to Subpoena the L.A. Sheriff’s Department

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