The Los Angeles County Supervisors voted in favor of putting a measure on the November ballot that would give them power to remove a sheriff.
After a third and final reading of the measure on Aug. 2, the supervisors took a 4-1 vote, and now Los Angeles County voters will have to decide if they want to give the supervisors power to not only remove current Sheriff Alex Villanueva, but future sheriffs for conduct it deems an “abuse of power,” or “violation of law.”
The dissenting vote came from Supervisor Kathryn Barger, who voted against the measure all three times, arguing that options to remove a sheriff already exist and do not need to be extended to the supervisors.
There are currently three other actionable options for removing a sheriff, which include written accusation of corrupt conduct to the district attorney, legal action from the attorney general, or a recall based off signatures from at least 10% of L.A. County voters.
“I want to be clear about my position,” Barger said after the measure’s final reading. “Giving the Board of Supervisors authority to remove an elected sheriff unequivocally takes away power from the public. It’s a move that has the power to disenfranchise voters. It also overlooks the fact that a recall process already exists to remove elected officials who fail to perform their duties.”
When presenting the measure, Supervisor Hilda Solis argued that the current sheriff and his staff had engaged in alleged misconduct and it is the supervisors’ duty to protect its residents from law enforcement harassment.
“Accountability over law enforcement is public safety,” Solis said in a statement after the measure’s first reading. “Ensuring our residents have the ability to vote on being free from law enforcement intimidation, harassment, and misconduct and holding them accountable for any ensuing harm and trauma is the Board of Supervisors’ responsibility, specifically over the Sheriff of Los Angeles County. This charter amendment would provide residents with the oversight they expect and the peace from law enforcement abuse they deserve.”
Sheriff Alex Villanueva called the measure a conflict of interest, saying the Sheriff holds elected officials accountable for crimes, and giving them power to remove a sheriff would allow the Supervisors to “basically dictate who gets investigated and who does not get investigated.”
The fate of the measure now lies in voter hands during the Nov. 8 elections.
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