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Can the Board of Supervisors remove sheriff from office?


The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors has directed its attorneys to draft a proposed ballot measure that would ask voters in November to give the panel power to remove an elected sheriff from office for cause.

The motion by Board Chair Holly Mitchell and Supervisor Hilda Solis directs county attorneys to draft the required documents and ordinance to put before voters on Nov. 8 that would allow the board to remove an elected sheriff with a four-fifths vote.

Under the motion, such a move would be allowed “for cause,” with such cause defined as “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.”

A Sheriff’s Department  representative called the maneuver a “politically motivated stunt” orchestrated while Sheriff Alex Villanueva is seeking reelection.

“If passed, this illegal motion would allow corrupt supervisors to intimidate sheriffs from carrying out their official duties to investigate crime,” a representative said. “Creating a pathway for politicians to remove a duly elected sheriff is a recipe for corruption, particularly when ‘cause’ is whatever suits their political agenda.”

Supervisor Janice Hahn had previously stated her plans to support the motion—giving it the three votes needed for approval. Supervisor Kathryn Barger has questioned the motivations of the proposal, questioning why it only targets the sheriff and not other county leadership positions.

Villanueva has repeatedly clashed with the board during his time in office, accusing members of defunding his agency at the expense of public safety, while also rebuffing subpoenas to appear before the county’s Civilian Oversight Commission.

The motion does not mention Villanueva by name, but states, “The current sheriff has been openly hostile to oversight and transparency and has tested the functionality of existing oversight structures by consistently resisting and obstructing these systems of checks and balances.”