On Tuesday, July 26, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors will entertain putting a measure on the November 8 General Election ballot that would amend the county charter and give them the power to remove a County Sheriff “for cause” from office with a four-fifths vote.
The supervisor’s proposed language lists items “for cause” to be, “A violation of any law related to the performance of their duties as Sheriff, flagrant or repeated neglect of duties, a misappropriation of public funds or property, willful falsification of a relevant official statement or document, or obstruction of any investigation into the conduct of the Sheriff by the Inspector General, Sheriff Civilian Oversight Commission, or any government agency with jurisdiction to conduct such an investigation.” This comes as a response to the incredible displays of disrespect and noncompliance to county requests perpetrated by L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva over the last four years.
At their meeting this past Tuesday, the Beverly Hills City Council agreed unanimously to send a letter of opposition to the measure to the Board of Supervisors. Sponsored by Mayor Lili Bosse and Councilmember John Mirisch, the council’s main argument is that there are already measures in place to remove an official like the county sheriff for cause or misconduct. They were also just plain disgusted by what they saw as a major power grab.
Indeed, as one of 14 California counties governed by a County Charter, Los Angeles County stipulates that a county sheriff can be removed from office through a recall election. But the law also allows a charter county to grant the county’s governing body with the power to remove a sheriff from office through an amendment to the county charter if passed by the voters.
One resident emailed the council saying of the Supervisor’s effort, “That’s an overreach of power, and takes away the checks and balances that were put in place to protect us, the civilians.”
“This, from my perspective, is not about the current sheriff, it’s not about any individual – it’s not about a person,” said Councilmember Mirisch. He continued, saying about the Board of Supervisors, “You’ve got this focus on everybody’s right to vote. And now we have drop boxes, and we’re moving elections, and there’s ballot harvesting, and you’ve got all of this; and they’re saying, you’ve got four people – out of a county of 10 million – who want to be able to make a decision to overturn an election. That is wrong on so many levels, and it’s beyond wrong. It’s hypocritical is what it is.”
Added Mayor Bosse, “I was mortified when I heard of this proposal. I feel like this is a disgusting overreach of power.” She further added, “Four out of five people should never overturn an elected position.”
“This is really a knee-jerk response to the antipathy between the Board of Supervisors and the Sheriff’s office,” observed Councilmember Lester Friedman.
“I just think this is terrible, terrible thinking,” voiced Vice Mayor Julian Gold. “First off, we’re in the middle of an election cycle. He [Villanueva] only got 30 percent of the vote, which means 70 percent of the people voted against him. Why not wait until at least after November? He might not get re-elected, so the whole thing makes no sense.” Gold added he would amend the letter council sends to the Board of Supervisors to make clear their opposition to the motion isn’t an endorsement for or against the current Sheriff.
Following unanimous consensus support for the letter being sent, Councilmember Mirisch was intent on finding additional measures the council can take. “Should we have somebody go down to the Board of Supervisors meeting and read it publicly? Should we do outreach to other cities?” he asked. “I think we can and should.”
Mayor Bosse also directed staff to send out a press release that the council was taking this stand. This prompted Mirisch to jump back in and demand that candidates for the Board of Supervisors answer what stand they would take on the proposed measure. Council then moved on to additional business.
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