LA County’s controversial Sheriff Alex Villanueva may have to open up to outside investigation of tattooed deputies accused of maintaining a culture of corruption and violence. That would be a blow to an elected official who has insisted that nobody but the voters can tell him what to do.
Since he upset former incumbent Jim McDonnell last year, Villanueva has refused to recognize any authority of the Office of Inspector General. But today the Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to explore granting that office the power to issue court-enforced subpoenas.
In an exclusive interview Monday, Sheriff Villanueva told KCRW’s Warren Olney he’s beset by enemies with an “agenda” to preserve the “cronyism” that kept him from being promoted beyond the rank of lieutenant. “Nobody else should have to go through what I went through," he said.
He retired after 22 years, having never supervised more than 50 people. But he now holds an elected office in charge of 10,000 deputies and 8500 civilians. He said that massive bureaucracy requires a challenging learning curve.
Olney asked about sworn testimony from a former administrator who said she quit after 34 years on the job rather than change the rules so Villanueva could re-hire a deputy fired for domestic violence and other misconduct. The sheriff promised the “whole story” would be told--but only after a court has decided the case brought by the Board against the attempted reinstatement.
Villanueva confirmed that he wants to reinstate 400 more deputies, as well as many civilians, fired by McDonnell. He said morale and recruitment are both rising, in part because of those plans.
Watchdogs and former supporters, including Democrats in the San Fernando Valley, have accused the sheriff of reneging on a campaign pledge to keep ICE officers out of County Jails. He told Olney that referrals to federal immigration enforcement are down by 47%, while critics insist it’s closer to 1%.
Olney also spoke with State Attorney General Javier Becerra, who has constitutional authority to supervise all of California’s sheriffs and district attorneys. Becerra said nobody has come forth to accuse Villanueva of violating the law.
The Board’s exploration of subpoena power by the Office of Inspector General is expected to take at least 60 days.
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