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By Jorge Casuso
November 1, 2022 -- The City Council on Tuesday shot down a motion to support a countywide ballot measure giving LA County Supervisors the power to remove the sheriff.
In a 4 to 2 vote, with Mayor Sue Himmelrich absent, the Council majority argued that Measure A, placed on next Tuesday's ballot by the County Board of Supervisors, shifted power away from the voters.
"Right now the voters have that power" by recalling the sheriff, said Councilmember Oscar de la Torre. "Democracy will be losing in this case.
"I don't see how this can be positive," de la Torre said. "We can end up politicizing the office."
Councilmember Lana Negrete agreed. "This is something voters can decide on individually," she said. "The democratic process should come into play."
Councilmember Gleam Davis, who with Himmelrich put the item on the agenda, argued that the Supervisors were elected by the voters and that removing the sheriff would require four of the five votes.
Davis introduced the motion by focusing on controversial actions taken by LA County Sheriff Alex Villanueva, who faces former Long Beach Police Chief Robert Luna in the Tuesday election.
She said the Sheriff's Department's search of Supervisor Sheila Kuehl's Santa Monica home in September was "unwarranted" and "retaliatory" ("Sheriffs Search Kuehl's Santa Monica Home," September 14, 2022).
"It's very hard to recall a sheriff," Davis said. "This is something to be used in extraordinary circumstances. This is just an added layer of accountability."
The charter amendment would allow the Board of Supervisors "to remove the sheriff from office for cause."
This is defined to include "violation of laws related to the sheriff's duties; repeated neglect of the sheriff's duties; misuse of public funds or properties; (and) willful falsification of documents."
It also includes "obstruction of an investigation into the department's conduct."
De la Torre noted that there are agencies, including the FBI, that can hold a sheriff accountable and intervene if there is unlawful conduct involved.
Measure A, he said, could "have a chilling effect on freedom of speech" if misused by the Supervisors.
"These are five people that have tremendous power," de la Torre said. "We need to give more power to the people, more power to the voters."
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