Los Angeles County is asking a judge to force Sheriff Alex Villanueva to show why he should not be held in contempt for allegedly defying a subpoena from the civilian board that oversees his department on May 21.
In a still unofficial Los Angeles Superior Court filing, lawyers for the county also want a court to direct Villanueva to appear and testify before the next scheduled meeting of the Sheriff Civilian Oversight Commission about the coronavirus in the jails.
“The dire consequences felt by many in Los Angeles naturally precipitated concerned members of the community to contact the COC about the effects of COVID-19, a highly contagious and deadly virus, on jail safety,” the filing states.
The filing further states that by failing to show up, Villanueva “lost an opportunity to engage the public directly regarding this important matter, which is of escalating public concern, and to enhance the public’s trust in the Sheriff’s Department.”
The COC’s subpoena powers are authorized by Measure R, which was passed by voters in March. After Villanueva did not appear voluntarily at a May 7 meeting, the commission voted unanimously to subpoena him.
Villanueva sent Assistant Sheriff Bruce Chase in his place to answer questions about the jails during the May 21 COC meeting. Villanueva said that testifying before the commission would be a “public shaming” and he has questioned whether Measure R is legal.
The Board of Supervisors created the COC in 2016 to improve public transparency and accountability of the LASD by providing opportunities for community engagement.