L.A. Sheriff Pulled as Head of Disaster Response

Even a worldwide pandemic hasn’t been enough to quell tensions between L.A. County leaders and the sheriff. If anything, the crisis is exacerbating them.

On Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors voted to make the county’s chief executive the head of disaster preparedness and response, effectively removing Sheriff Alex Villanueva from the position. The decision was unanimous.

Supervisors say the move was planned for some time and is unrelated to the current pandemic. An audit of the 2018 Woolsey fire conducted last fall found the county ill prepared and in need of a more centralized disaster response.

Villanueva isn’t buying it. He called supervisors’ explanation “absolute hogwash” in an interview with the L.A. Times.

“This is pretty much a silent coup, what they’re trying to orchestrate,” he said, suggesting it was payback for his decision to close gun stores during the pandemic. That decision was initially shot down by county counsel, then affirmed by Governor Newsom, and reinstituted. L.A. County, the sheriff, and the governor are now being sued.

Supervisor Sheila Kuehl dismissed the sheriff’s reaction.

“This is not about him,” she said.

The policy is in line with what most other counties have done, according to the Board, and is aimed at improving safety for the county's 10 million residents.


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