Sheriff Alex Villanueva

Has LA Sheriff Alex Villanueva Acted Unlawfully? A New Report Says, Yes. He Has. A Bunch of Times, Actually

Celeste Fremon
Written by Celeste Fremon

On Monday, the Office of the Inspector General released a 17-page report on “Unlawful Conduct” of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, most specifically the LA County Sheriff.

The report was requested by the Civilian Oversight Commission or COC.

As its name suggests, the COC is charged with providing “ongoing review, analysis and oversight” of the nation’s largest sheriff’s agency, its practices and procedures, while also building bridges between the department and the public.  To help the COC with these tasks, in January of 2020, the LA County board of supervisors voted to supply subpoena power to the group, via the Office of the Inspector General.

The concept was further ratified by LA voters on March 3, 2020, when the county passed Measure R, a grassroots-led ballot measure that gave teeth to civilian oversight of the LASD by, once again, authorizing the COC to have subpoena power.

Then, in case the matter wasn’t clear enough, in September of this year, Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law AB 1185, which codifies the state’s counties’ ability to establish oversight bodies for their sheriff’s departments, and grant them subpoena authority — which LA County had (obviously) already done months earlier.

In LA, however, here has been one problem.  Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva, doesn’t like oversight, which is part of why the COC asked for the OIG’s new evaluation of unlawful behavior.

More specifically, according to the report,  Sheriff Villanueva believes that, as an elected sheriff, his “power comes from the state Constitution” and therefore cannot be limited by “charter, statute, or ordinance.”

The law, however, does not support the sheriff’s claim, writes the Inspector General, and the conflict has resulted in a “constitutional crisis” for Los Angeles County.


Laws and limits

“I am writing,” Inspector General Max Huntsman states in the report’s opening, “to document examples of unlawful conduct” having to do with the sheriff’s department’s effort to “remove law enforcement reforms and oversight mechanisms” that have been developed in the last few years, specifically limitations imposed since the federal convictions of former sheriff Lee Baca and former Undersheriff Paul Tanaka, for among other things, obstructing justice.

Among the many examples the report cites are three recent rulings by three different judges who took issue with the LA Sheriff’s Department’s view that it need not obey laws that limit its power.

The first of those three rulings pertains to Sheriff Villanueva’s contention that he could rehire former Deputy Karen (Carl) Mandoyan.  Finally, after a string of legal battles, on September 28 of this year, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mitchell Beckloff ruled in a 17-page decision that Villanueva’s attempt to reinstate former deputy Caren Carl Mandoyan was unlawful.  Period.  Full stop.

(You can read the ruling here: Mandoyan ruling 9-28-2020)

In a second ruling, a different court vacated Sheriff Villanueva’s order that forbade the LA County Medical Examiner/Coroner from releasing his autopsy report on the fatal shooting by a deputy.**

The judge who vacated the sheriff’s order wrote that the sheriff’s decision to file this order in secret without consulting the coroner or county council was  “a shock to the conscience.


Contempt and threats

The third ruling is, in some ways, the most interesting.  On November 20, 2020, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Holly Fujie ruled that Villanueva must appear at a hearing early next year on January 21, 2021, to explain why he should not be held in contempt for defying a subpoena requiring him to show up at the COC to talk about the coronavirus problem in the jails, and other topics.  According to Judge Fujie, Villanueva disobeyed the subpoena even though state law and county codes are clear that the oversight commission had the authority to issue it, and the subpoena required his attendance.

In addition to the three rulings, the report  catalogues an impressive number of other examples of the ways that the sheriff has “behaved unlawfully.”

For instance,  the sheriff often fails to release the names of deputies who are involved in shootings, although state law and a California Supreme Court ruling have each stipulated that, absent a specific threat to a deputy or officer, the names must be released, based on the California Public Records Act.

(For the record, the Los Angeles Police Department releases the names of their officers involved in shootings within three to seven days of the shooting, and also posts the information on the LAPD website.)

There’s much, much more on the “unlawful” list, including a section that enumerates the various threats the sheriff has made against county officials, including members of the board of supervisors, the Inspector General, and recently retired County CEO Sachi Hamai.

In the case of Hamai, the sheriff claimed repeatedly and falsely that the then-CEO had refused to pay deputies who were afflicted by COVID 19, an accusation that he repeated on Fox 11 news, and in other forums, finally resulting in Hamai receiving threats on social media.  “Wait till Hamai fears for her life and the life of her family,”  one person wrote.  And there were more after that.

So what can or should be done, if anything, about this list of unlawful, and/or possibly unlawful actions and activities?

Well, both state and local law spell out that sheriff’s departments must cooperate with oversight bodies, like it or not.

Moreover, as the report notes, the public has made it very, very clear that transparency on the part of law enforcement is “a primary concern.” And “the police must follow the law if they are to enforce it.”

The COC will be meeting virtually at 9 a.m. on Thursday, and Inspector General Max Huntsman will be present to report on various issues, this “unlawful” list likely one of them.

There should also be a report on the county’s jails, where 25 percent of the 15,135 people in residence now are under quarantine.

So stay tuned.

More as we know it.

**Note:  We originally wrote that Sheriff Villanueva’s order to forbid the LA County Medical Examiner/Coroner from releasing his autopsy report on the fatal shooting by a deputy — which a judge vacated — pertained to the shooting of Andrés Guardado.  This was incorrect.  The judge’s action addressed an order regarding a different autopsy for a different shooting by a deputy, which occurred subsequent to the killing of Guardado, suggesting that these orders for secrecy might be the sheriff’s new pattern going forward.


Photo of Sheriff Villanueva courtesy of Instagram.

46 Comments

  • Wow! Time really repeats itself. Im sure future promotional lists will include tattooed clique members rising though the ranks.

    Wait and see.

    • Come on now, Happily Retired, I’m sure you knew some “tattooed clique members” who were fine human beings and great deputies. I worked with and for some who were top notch. And yes, there were others who shouldn’t have even been cops at all. I suspect it’s the same for most agencies, especially one as big as LASD.

  • Another garbage smear campaign against an elected official that doesn’t play by the BS BOS rules.
    I’m not falling for any of this psy-ops campaign.
    Keep fighting the good fight, sheriff…

    • BOS is an acronym for the Board of Supervisors and the mandated job of the BOS is to

      Supervise County governance.

      Government Code section #24004.3 establishes the requirements to become a California Sheriff; it probably should be amended to require that all California Sheriffs a) have a law degree from an accredited institution and b) pass the Calif. Bar Exam.

      The Bar Exam has just recently been dumbed down from a three day to a two day exam and the passing score lowered from 72 to 69.5%, so its easier (?) to pass than it used to be.

      The Sheriff already draws the same salary as such County lawyers as the County Counsel, District Attorney, and Public Defender so there should be no shortage of qualified applicants come election time.

      That right there should improve the quality of Los Angeles County Law Enforcement.

      • Rakkasan,

        That is the worst idea I’ve heard in a while. How about we make it mandatory that sheriffs have to be a California POST certified cop. Anybody can be the sheriff, and a law degree is the last thing one should make a requirement.

        Here’s a good one for you: did you know that a US Supreme Court Justice does not have to be an attorney? It’s true.

        • Dose of Reality:

          Government Code section #24004.4 mandates that California Sheriffs hold an Advanced POST Certificate.

          I have one of those; it’s in a box someplace up in a remote part of my attic, or maybe the garage.

          What did I do to get it?

          Beats me; I forgot.

          As far as putting a non-lawyer onto the U.S. Supreme Court: what politician would dare do that?

          • You meant 24004.3, there is no 24004.4. But, you’re right. I haven’t checked on that since before the 1989 grandfather date when they didn’t need a POST cert.

            I still disagree with the law degree requirement. They’ve got county counsel advisors when they need it.

  • How can you dare wrap your head around the position of Sheriff requiring a law degree? This sheriff actually has a PhD which in academic circles is the pinnacle of educational and research achievement. It’s actually more representative of an individual devoting a great deal of time, though and originality to a specific field relative to a medical doctor or lawyer which are actually occupation specific trade degrees like an engineer. Our new DA is a cop turned lawyer and I’m not impressed by that achievement and his trail of destruction. Most politicians have law degrees, and again, I’m not impressed by that distinction.

    Any profession that has members who defend a baby killer for example, that they know is guilty, does everything in their power to get their client off on a technicality, rationalities to themselves and others that what their doing is okay and is a able to sleep at night with a clear conscientious causes me worry. I hope they will be at peace come judgements day as the line, “I was just doing my job won’t cut it”. That defense was tried and didn’t work for war criminals either.

    No we don’t need a trained word scrabbler, rhetoric spewing lawyer to be the sheriff. They have their place in the comforts of an office. We need a practitioner of the law not a theoretician.

  • So many layers of excuses for the foolishness of Sheriff Villanueva from his followers.

    The naysayers of the truth would only agree if the deeds were attached to another name and regardless of how many may feel, Villanueva is a one term Sheriff.

  • All the Bandidos Lackeys: some who do his bidding, others trying to coax out attention from the delusional Bandido for promotion. Can’t wait for 2021. Stay Tuned!!!

  • We are mired in a pandemic in which 339 Nursing Home patients died in LA County due to neglect and poor leadership. Yet the Board of Supervisors is pursuing this political battle against the Sheriff.

    Where is Huntsman’s report on the Nursing Homes? The County focused on the homeless and inmates but failed to focus on the most vulnerable.

    Where is the investigation regarding Kuehl’s no bid contract for her friend? The contract did not help the taxpayers. It only lined her friend’s pocket or purse. We are looking at staffing reductions. I bet those $8,000 phone calls are look pretty wasteful now. Is that program continuing?

    The OIG’s comments regarding Department members failure to where masks given Kuehl’s arrogant behavior is laughable. After shaming us as to the danger of eating at restaurants and voting to close them, She actually went out to eat.

    No Sheriff’s areas were badly hit during the riots and looting. You can not say that about LA, Beverly Hills, Santa Monica and Long Beach. Kuehl actually commented that Law Enforcement need to stand down on Facebook just before the Fairfax area was looted. Her home town Santa Monica was looted the very next day.

    Villanueva has his issue for sure but come on really. When will the failed leadership of the BOS be addressed. To date 339 nursing home deaths, a non-story I guess.

    • Seeking there you go again. As the gates keep closing on Allie you seek to deflect, divert and sputter nonsense. Kuehl blah blah blah. I think you have been drinking too much of Allie’s Patron – I mean KoolAid.

  • As I think back at the leadership of this department, I cannot help but wonder, how the Board of Supervisors, has been at odds with every Sheriff. So, when I try to analyze the situation, I ask myself, is it really the Sheriff who is the problem or is it the BOS?

    Ponder this for awhile. When a company has an employee who is, let’s say, sub-standard, there can only be two outcomes. The first approach is to document the employee’s negative behavior and administer progressive discipline up to termination. The second approach is to transfer the employee to another business unit of the organization.

    Therefore, has every elected Sheriff been a bad apple? Or could it be possible that maybe the BOS has had their own agenda which conflicts with the Sheriff’s agenda? Further, could it be possible that the citizens of L.A. County voted for the wrong person to be Sheriff? For every administration?

    Now, I am not defending the current Sheriff, however it is evident that he is marching to the tune of his own agenda (as would any CEO of any company with some exceptions of course) and not the BOS agenda. Which, obviously, is having a detrimental affect on the BOS. Has this Sheriff (AV), done some outlandish, egregious actions? It may appear so, especially with the Mandoyan fiasco. Keep in mind though, the “spin” that the BOS is putting on some issues.

    Nonetheless, has any past Sheriff reinstated Deputy personnel? Yes. Have some of these past Sheriff’s as well as their staff been corrupted by the power they had? Yes? I am sure that every one who posts on this blog can attest to the fact, that someone from every past/current Sheriff’s staff has done something scandalous (i.e., sex in office, shady car deals, DUI’s, Domestic violence, etc.)

    What I am alluding to is the fact that the BOS has always had their own agenda. Period! Further, they have always wanted to have a hand in the daily, inner workings of the Sheriff’s department (which AV is not allowing). They yearn for the power, which they so desperately want and seek. However, in the past, there has been some type of “balance” within the BOS, which allowed for an amicable relationship between the Sheriff and the BOS. Not today. The BOS is predominantly women (except Thomas). The “make-up” of the BOS is that, they are all liberal, progressive women ( with an exception, Barger), who have an “axe to grind” with men, while also asserting their influence and power over anyone who opposes them.

    Kuehl despises Villanueva and she has to prove to him that she has a bigger set of marbles. She has rallied her co-workers to go in with her on her quest to do the following:
    1.) Remove AV from office
    2.) Persuade the BOS and her voter base that the BOS should appoint the Sheriff in order to control the
    LASD from its marauding personnel
    3.) Implement progressive changes to the LASD
    4.) The Sheriff becomes a “figure head” and puppet like LAPD’s Chief Moore
    4.) Prove to her “peeps” that a woman can take on the most powerful man and win

    Now, I may be spewing information from the south end of my orifice. Nonetheless, the BOS will not relent until they get what they want (power), or until the voters of L.A. County get an epiphany and vote in individuals with common sense, who believe in law and order, being supportive of law enforcement and who will govern for the people and not themselves.

  • ALADS and the unions that got Villanueva elected are comming to his defense because they also hold potential endorsements for the Board… Oh wait scratch that… The president of ALADS just called. Ron says he wont get involved and because he is the home union, rules say other unions cant do anything without ALADS. FAIR WEATHER FRIEND.

  • George Gascon will be taking a lot of the political heat off AV. The voters are starting to realize what a complete dumpster fire they’ve just installed as their DA. One of Gascon’s deputy DA’s was on KFI and ABC7 blowing the whistle on Gascon’s love for criminals and apparent contempt for crime victims (actual crime victims, not some gangster whining about how tight his handcuffs are). There’s an uprising afoot within the ranks of the DA’s Office and the word “recall” is ALREADY being bantered about in public forums.

    The BOS is in a pickle because they sided with the woke BLM crowd who helped eradicate Jackie Lacey and defund the LASD. Now we’re left with Gascon who is an existential threat to public safety. Wait until the daughter of some limousine liberal gets violently raped and left in a coma by a career criminal whom Gascon refused to file on prior to.

    Back here at LASD: AV has shot himself in the foot many a time. He is neither a polished politician nor an accomplished bridge builder, but he’s the only person in town who seems to actually give a shit about public safety. I’d rather my sheriff be at odds with the overtly socialist BOS than allow himself to be their puppet like the stuffed shirt running LAPD. I’d say AV is a big reason why we didn’t have some Seattle-style CHAZ takeover last summer. He stood his ground and supported his deputies.

    I don’t much care for the man myself but this may be a good time to support your sheriff despite the Mandoyan non-story or the Kobe debacle. You’ve seen the alternative and it’s now sitting in an office a few floors above our guy.

  • I seem to recall a recent prior Latino Sheriff and his Japanese American Undersheriff running afoul of the law. They both ended up in the federal penitentiary. And those last two individuals were much smarter than the current Clown and his Skippers.

    As some say, history has a way of repeating itself. After reading that long list of potential offenses, it sure looks that way.

    #WorstSheriffEver
    #RecallSheriffV
    #ResignSheriffV
    #ShamefulSheriffV
    #1TermSheriffV
    #AdiosAlex

  • Short memories be damned with shenanigans with Sheriff Villanueva.

    1) Mandoyan
    2) Kobe Crash Photos
    3) Bandito’s
    4) Sachi Hamai

    • Don’t forget the “Good Ol’ Boys Club” that LT Villanueva opposed and claims hindered his career is now “Good Ol’ Boys and Girls Club.”

  • The difference with the last Sheriff Baca and his Undersheriff Tanaka were not at odds with the LA County Supervisors, they were instead ego driven, power hungry politicians. They were on the same page if you will as the BOS and very much understood the back scratching, wheeling and dealing and political swamp that is LA County Politics. The problem with those two is they they thought they were untouchable like most politicians feel they are. Why didn’t the BOS or state take any action to wheel in the rogue Sheriff Baca, Undersheriff Tanaka and his merry men? We all no the BOS are neither choir boys/girls/x or angels. Take a look at their “colleagues” across the way on the Los Angeles City Council and one former LA City Mayor by the name of Villagarosa. The old saying, “Those who live in glass houses should not cast stones” comes to mind. What has the Sheriff really done outside his job to make the BOS go through so much to try and disrupt his tenure and remove him from office? The Sheriffs job is to oversee a Department that is responsible for providing law enforcement services to the citizens of Los Angeles County? The current Sheriff is not perfect but perhaps naive to the workings of the swamp and filth that career politicians slither in throughout their careers. I think it’s refreshing to have a regular person as sheriff who naively believes in supporting his workforce, enforcing the law and not cowering to an elected board.

    On another note, here’s a link to a very interesting documentary about Seattle. San Francisco is gone but perhaps it could still be a cautionary tale for Los Angeles.

    https://youtu.be/WijoL3Hy_Bw

  • This goes to show what happens when you don’t go with the status quo. I know it’s hard for everyone to understand but peace officers have rights too (POBAR).

    Contrary to popular belief, most deputies would take Villanueva over McD any day and twice on Sundays.

    I agree with the comment about the BOS, that’s the garbage that needs to be taken out. Shorten term limits, make all their financials public record (Home security, bodyguards, and vehicles). I’d like to also know all their investments in contracts and bids in their areas.

    I don’t agree with Alex, but I’d still prefer ho over McD. There’s are bigger at issues at hand.

    -Crime
    -Drug Abuse
    -Homelessness
    -Violent Crimes in disparaged neighborhoods
    -Run down communities, usually of color.
    -Education, no one seems to care that most children are not getting the quality of education they should Especially now, and in neighborhoods of color.

    The list goes on…..

  • And, per directions of A/S Bibi: Deputy E Robles who was moved to the Office of the Sheriff, and given a County take home car. This after she recklessly took the life of 2 young boys in ELA.

  • Now ALADS wants to have conversation with Gascon (with good reason) but remains mum on Villanueva, interesting ty o say the least.

    Between Gascon & Villanueva, Los Angeles County is in for a bumpy chaotic ride.

  • Gas-con will not make it.
    He’s about as spry as Biden.
    Neither have an ounce of life left in their worthless bodies.
    Dude needs to go.
    Don’t give him the time of day.
    Avoid him, ignore him, refuse his ridiculous policies.

    #NotMyDA
    Go away bro

      • My guess is they are researching a new horse to saddle up on. Their current Hag is all broken down and ready to be sent to the glue factory in 2022.

        I had the misfortune of being at one of his recently staged and heavily choreographed “community events” and watching little Allie trying to hobble around on those severely bowed legs was both painful and embarrassing to observe. The weight of all of those F’Ups is definitely having a physically damaging effect on the ill equipped and inept lieutenant who is trying miserably to play sheriff.

        #WorstSheriffEver
        #RecallSheriffV
        #ResignSheriffV
        #ShamefulSheriffV
        #1TermSheriffV
        #AdiosAlex

  • Gascon’s hatchet job on the criminal justice system is dangerous. Reform is necessary but incremental change based on evidence, not emotion, is the path forward.

    Contract and independent Cities should consider forming an independent Office of City Attorneys to prosecute misdemeanors in their cities.

    Take the prosecutions out of his hands.

  • Reminiscent of the Tom Angel incident under the last Sheriff, Big Jim. Not surprising though, since everyone is prejudiced, biased, prone to stereotype mongering and racist to varying degrees. Being a “minority group” doesn’t absolve one ethnic group from harboring prejudice and hate toward another ethnic group.

  • There’s so much to be said about this post. Instead, here’s a question.

    How does LT Villanueva or MRS 1st SGT keep a straight face when writing/reading this nonsense knowing it’s nothing but lies?

    “In just our second full year in office, and despite these challenges, we have made great progress in reforming the LA County Sheriff’s department to rebuild the morale and organization as well as to restore the confidence and integrity of our Department with regards to the community. It has been a rough road, but as I learned in the military and in my 35 years of public service, a steady hand, strong leadership, and good communications is vital to success.”

    https://www.facebook.com/1675724796069254/posts/2462660407375685/?d=n

  • Carrie Robles Plascencia (AKA “Mija”) ran over two little boys. May God rest their souls! Calls Vivian Lopez Villanueva “mommy”

    2019

    reg pay: $113.948
    overtime pay: $38.948
    other pay: $8,880.00
    total pay: $161,588.00
    Benefits: $38,688.00

    total pay and benefits $200,276.00
    Question for Daddy and Mommy Villanueva.
    Did you send the family of these two children a xmas card?

  • You forgot the drunk Jr Villanueva. Can’t wait for his F**** ups!
    John McBride drip drip drip to protect his own skipper mentality.

  • What can you do if a LASD IAB agent lies on a deputies discharge case and you have proof he lied under oath so 3304(d) would not be violated. It seems the hearing officer, Civil Service commission, county lawyers and Board of Supervisors just seem to overlook lots of evidence if it’s not in their favor. The system is broken and unless they get a super laywer to take their case there is no hope for some of these deputies, which is really sad. They drag these cases out for years to bleed the duties into quitting because the deputies run out of money and can’t afford to keep fighting for their job. There should be a short time limit on all cases with the LASD department.

    • another tactic would be to hold 2-3 yrs of pay checks/W2’s they should have mailed to your residence. And if you are on adminstrative leave. They will later say the subject of the investigation should not have been receiving pay.. ask [WLA edit] Villanueva if he knows or practiced this tactic while assigned to Pico Rivera Station..

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