Two days after a judge found he had improperly re-hired a deputy who was fired over domestic violence allegations, Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva lashed out at the Board of Supervisors Wednesday, accusing them of wasting taxpayer dollars by meddling in his leadership of the agency.
“Is it appropriate for five supervisors to use taxpayer dollars to hire three high-powered law firms, each lawyer making on average $1,100 an hour?” Villanueva asked. “Why? Only to stop an elected sheriff from doing his job? Is it appropriate for five supervisors to use taxpayer dollars to sue themselves by suing another county department, especially since they already have on payroll about 300 lawyers funded by taxpayer dollars to handle these labor disagreements in the first place?
“… I wish the board would focus on allowing me to do the job I was elected to do, which is keeping the community safe, providing a better standard of care for those in my custody and helping to get more roofs over the heads of our homeless,” he said.
The sheriff again defended his decision to rehire Caren Carl Mandoyan, who worked on Villanueva’s campaign, insisting that evidence in his case raised questions about the domestic violence allegations that led to his firing. He repeated his assertion that exculpatory evidence weighing in Mandoyan’s favor was ignored by the department when the deputy was terminated.
Villanueva conceded in his remarks that Mandoyan’s rehiring “was not properly handled,” but he blasted the Board of Supervisors for suing him to have Mandoyan removed from his job. The sheriff said 14 department employees were reinstated between 2015-18, including one who had been let go in response to alleged domestic violence against the mother of his children and was investigated for similar allegations involving two other women.
“None of these cases generated a resolution from the Board of Supervisors. None of these cases generated any outcry from the Office of Inspector General,” Villaneuva said, suggesting the uproar over Mandoyan’s re-hiring was sparked solely by the board’s political opposition to him.
Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas issued a statement Wednesday afternoon, saying, “I assert there is no upside to having the sheriff’s department tarnished by reinstating deputies who are not fit to serve. It does not help public safety or public confidence to reverse reforms that we have worked so hard to put in place.”
Supervisor Hilda Solis sharply rebuked Villanueva, saying he “has not met the high standards of his office.”
“Trust begins at the top, and this sheriff is failing this crucial test,” Solis said in a statement. “From unsupported allegations of falsified data on the use of force in the jail, to encouraging a hostile workplace environment led by secret sheriff’s deputy cliques such as the Banditos at the East L.A. sheriff’s station, to threatening to re-hire sheriff’s deputies who have been fired for domestic violence, false statements and other crimes, L.A. County residents deserve leadership at the sheriff’s department that respects them and the law.”
On Monday, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mitchell Beckloff ordered Mandoyan to surrender his uniform, gun and badge and stop holding himself out as a deputy sheriff. He also ordered Villanueva and the sheriff’s department to abide by the decision and stop claiming Mandoyan is a county employee.
Beckloff’s order found that the sheriff did not have the authority to unilaterally settle Mandoyan’s lawsuit challenging his 2016 firing by re-hiring him. Beckloff said such an action requires the approval of the county Board of Supervisors.
Attorneys for Villanueva argued that the sheriff was told by County Counsel that he had the authority to rehire deputies and review the agency’s past disciplinary actions against deputies. But Beckloff noted in his ruling that Villanueva was repeatedly told by one of his undersheriffs that he “couldn’t hire Mandoyan back the way he wanted to do it.”
Beckloff’s order will remain in effect pending a full trial of the board’s lawsuit against Villanueva.
After Beckloff issued his order, Supervisor Janice Hahn said: “This is so important. The public needs to know they can trust the deputies they call in their moment of need. Stalking and domestic violence cannot and will not be tolerated.”
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