L.A. County supervisors seek the power to boot a sheriff

Alex Villanueva is seen in profile.
As a candidate for L.A. County sheriff, Alex Villanueva speaks to the media on Nov. 7, 2018, in Whittier.
(Patrick T. Fallon / For The Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2022, and I am your host, Gale Holland, a Metro assistant editor and staff writer, scribbling in sultry Echo Park without the benefit of air conditioning, which is on the blink.

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday moved to ask voters for the power to oust an elected sheriff from office. The decision grew out of a power struggle between the board and incumbent Sheriff Alex Villanueva, a controversial, pugnacious leader who is facing a tough runoff against retired Long Beach Police Chief Robert Luna in November.

The ballot measure, also set for November, would take the form of a charter amendment and, as written, would extend to future sitting sheriffs. At least four supervisors would need to agree that the sheriff was not fit for office to oust the individual.

[Read “Should L.A. County supervisors have the power to boot a sheriff? Voters will decide,” Los Angeles Times]


Supporters said the move would enhance accountability and protect the lives and liberty of county residents. But it will undermine the long-standing autonomy of sheriffs in Los Angeles County and concentrate an enormous amount of authority in the already powerful five-member supervisory board.

Almost from the moment he was elected, Villanueva has chafed at board oversight, rehiring a deputy who had been fired, accused of violating department policies on domestic violence and lying. A judge later overturned the rehiring.

The sheriff refused to cooperate with a Sheriff Civilian Oversight Commission inquiry into deputy cliques that are said to operate like gangs. He has pursued a long-running criminal investigation into the board-appointed inspector general, Max Huntsman, and accused him separately of being a Holocaust denier but refused to provide evidence.

He also suggested that he was targeting Times reporter Alene Tchekmedyian in a criminal leak probe. Tchekmedyian had reported on the department’s coverup of a video showing a deputy kneeling on the head of a handcuffed jail inmate for three minutes. Villanueva later backed off his comments.

In response to an accusation that deputies were harassing and intimidating families of men they shot and killed in the line of duty, Villanueva held a news conference and played deputy body camera footage showing the mother and sister of 18-year-old Paul Rea at an East L.A. taco stand, where the deputy who shot him was also present. The sister yelled at the deputy, “You killed an 18-year-old.”

Rea’s grandmother Julie Martinez told the Sheriff Civilian Oversight Commission that the sheriff edited out the deputy provoking the confrontation by “shoving his plate towards them, asking them if they wanted tacos, and smirking at them.”

In a letter last month to the board, Villanueva called the proposed voter measure a “cheap political stunt” designed to hurt his bid for reelection and suggested that he might mount a legal challenge.

Former county Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, who is not a Villanueva supporter and wants to see him defeated at the polls, cautioned that the charter amendment could be handing Villanueva a potent campaign issue.

“He will posture himself as the victim of a power struggle,” Yarovslavsky said.

And now, here’s what’s happening across California:

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Forever the voice of the Dodgers: Vin Scully has died at age 94. The voice of the Dodgers for more than six decades, Scully’s folksy manner and melodic language made him a beloved figure in American culture. Times Sports columnist Bill Plaschke writes: “He was the soundtrack of a city, the muse of millions, the voice of home. Vin Scully is gone, but he will never be silenced. He will be forever heard on soft spring afternoons, a serenade of rebirth, a song of hope.”


A visit to the Disney table at Tam O’Shanter. It’s where Walt and his Imagineers dined nearly daily when his animation studio was on Hyperion Boulevard in Silver Lake in the late 1920s and ’30s. Table No. 31 is in the back of the 100-year-old Scottish pub in Atwater Village, whose storybook exterior, local lore has it, may have influenced the design of the cottages in “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.” Atlas Obscura

Four men smile as they stand together and hold up a long sheet of paper.
Mo Ostin with, from left, Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr.
(Warner Records Archives)

Former record label executive Mo Ostin dies at age 95. The head of the Warner/ Reprise label led the way for the westward tilt of the music business from New York to Los Angeles, writes former Times music critic Robert Hilburn. Ostin was beloved by artists from Frank Sinatra to Stevie Nicks. Los Angeles Times


A second woman dies after cosmetic surgery in Tijuana. A 36-year-old woman died last week from complications after undergoing cosmetic surgery at the private Diagnosis Hospital in Tijuana, which had had its license suspended. The wife of a Guatemalan diplomat in Denver died on July 4 after undergoing a cosmetic procedure, also at an unlicensed facility in Tijuana. Border Report


People walk among tents on a sidewalk. Clothing and debris litter the ground. A man stands with an overloaded cart.
Venice homeless encampment.
(Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles bans homeless encampments near schools. Over the jeers of protesters who eventually were cleared from the chambers, the Los Angeles City Council voted Tuesday to remove homeless people and tents within 500 feet of schools and day-care centers. South Los Angeles Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson voted against the restrictions, telling reporters the vote would move L.A. toward an “inhumanity that is beneath the citizens of the city.” Parents and school officials supported the restrictions. Said Councilman Joe Buscaino, who represents Watts and the harbor: “What I don’t support are drug dens near our schools, parks, or anywhere children congregate.” Los Angeles Times

Riverside council member demands apology over sheriff’s innuendo. Riverside City Councilwoman Clarissa Cervantes demanded an apology after Sheriff Chad Bianco implied she had supported vandalism at a weekend abortion rights rally. Eight protesters were arrested for allegedly painting green handprints on the downtown courthouse. Bianco said on his Facebook page that he had seen “lots of comments and private messages” that Cervantes appeared at the rally in support of the vandalism. Cervantes said it wasn’t true. An apology is not forthcoming, a sheriff’s sergeant said. The Press-Enterprise


Why we can’t have police accountability. An appellate court overturned murder convictions of three Santa Clara County deputy sheriffs for the 2015 jailhouse beating death of Michael Tyree. The court said a change in the law a year after the deputies’ convictions applied retroactively, meaning the judge’s instruction that jurors could find Tyree’s death was a “natural and probable consequence” of the beating was improper. Tyree, 31, was a mentally ill man waiting for a bed to open up at a residential treatment center when Deputies Jereh Lubrin, Matthew Farris and Rafael Rodriguez severely beat him in his cell. Jurors rejected a defense argument that the injuries were the result of an accidental fall or suicide. Mercury News

Water flows down Oroville Dam's main spillway in 2017.  (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
Water flows down Oroville Dam’s main spillway, near Oroville, Calif., in 2017.
(Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

Cal Supremes OK the state increasing environmental regulation of Oroville Dam. The California Supreme Court ruled that state regulators could impose stricter safety and environmental regulations than the federal government on the Oroville Dam in Butte County. A breach and spill at the 770-foot Feather River structure, the nation’s tallest, forced 188,000 people to flee their homes in 2017. The ruling could open the door to regulation of environmental effects such as loss of endangered and threatened fish species as well as safety issues. San Francisco Chronicle


Therapists are fleeing Kaiser Permanente. California’s Department of Managed Health Care has launched a “non-routine survey” to determine whether Kaiser is offering adequate behavioral healthcare. Working conditions for therapists at Kaiser are so deplorable that some therapists would rather return to previous jobs in the state prisons, Jack Ross and Kristy Hutchings write in Capital and Main. Patients can languish for six weeks or more waiting for overburdened mental health practitioners to see them, the writers add. Kaiser blames a nationwide shortage of mental healthcare practitioners. Capital and Main

Two women in white lab coats, plastic gloves and goggles look at a computer screen.
Dr. Sonia Macieiewski, right, and Dr. Nita Patel look at a sample of a respiratory virus at Novavax labs in Gaithersburg, Md.
(Andrew Caballero-Reynolds / AFP via Getty Images)

Novavax, a new COVID-19 vaccine, is here. Los Angeles County began administering the new vaccine Monday in Long Beach. Novavax is based on a 30-year-old technology used to make vaccines for flu, hepatitis B and whooping cough. Other county clinics will offer the two-dose injections starting Wednesday. Authorities hope the proven formula will help overcome vaccine resistance. Los Angeles Daily News

Californians are desperate for monkeypox vaccines. California cities — including Palm Springs, Los Angeles and San Francisco — are leading the nation in online searches for monkeypox vaccines, which remain in short supply. Eight of the top 10 metro areas searching online for nearby monkeypox vaccines over the last week were in California, according to Google Trends. California Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency over the rapidly spreading monkeypox outbreak on Monday. Illinois declared a monkeypox public health emergency earlier Monday, and New York declared a state disaster emergency late Friday. Los Angeles Times


The cheesecake with a truffle supplement at San Laurel, Jose Andres' new restaurant .
The cheesecake with a truffle supplement at San Laurel, Jose Andres’ new restaurant at the Conrad hotel in downtown L.A.
(Jenn Harris / Los Angeles Times)

The $74 cheesecake. Really, the Basque cheesecake with curls of truffle falling on it like snow at José Andrés’ new downtown Los Angeles restaurant, San Laurel, is thrilling. And you can have it sans truffle for $24, says food columnist Jenn Harris. It’s also obscene, Harris says — but we earned it. “I thought about how two years ago, we were all stuck in our homes, hoarding precious rolls of toilet paper, and decided the indulgence was more than justified,” Harris writes. Los Angeles Times

21 music festivals still to come this year in SoCal. Pool parties, an extreme cornhole championship, Polo & Pan, Brittany Howard and Sugar Ray. Knock yourself out. Orange County Register

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Los Angeles: sunny, 83. San Diego: mostly sunny, 81. San Francisco: mostly sunny and breezy, 69. San Jose: sunny, 84. Fresno: hot, 102. Sacramento: hot,100.


Today’s California memory comes from Joe Cutcliffe:

Relocating to California by car in 1971 from the East Coast, my wife and I were urged to be sure to sample the state’s three “Big A’s”: Artichokes, Abalone, and Avocados. The first opportunity came at a restaurant near Needles where I ordered my first-ever artichoke and attempted to eat it one whole leaf at a time. A nearby diner, observing my struggle, came to my rescue with advice on how to eat only the tender part of the thistle’s leaves and discard the rest.

If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)

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