Attorney for Los Angeles CEO Threatens Sheriff With Defamation Suit

New strife has emerged between L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva and the Office of the County Executive. Last week, an attorney representing CEO Sachi Hamai accused the sheriff of defamation and threatened legal action over comments he made during a Facebook Live broadcast.

The spat centers around a question about the propriety of CEO Sachi Hamai’s position on the board of United Way of Greater Los Angeles. The nonprofit helped push a proposal to the Board of Supervisors this week to redirect 10% of the county’s general fund — which includes part of the Sheriff’s Department’s budget — to better address the needs of low-income residents in under-resourced communities.

Villanueva has suggested that the proposal is a veiled attempt to defund his department. Hamai stepped down from the United Way board before Tuesday’s vote to avoid the appearance of any conflict. During the meeting, she raised concerns about the proposal. Even so, the board voted 4-1 to draft a measure that could appear on the November ballot. —Los Angeles Times

During the Facebook Live event, Villanueva’s wife Vivian called in to ask whether it was a felony for Hamai to be on the United Way board. Villanueva essentially said that it is.

In a strongly worded letter, Hamai and her attorney Skip Miller demanded the sheriff retract his statement, calling it “malicious lies.” In responding to his wife, Villanueva cited a provision of the Government Code referring to individuals who “have a prohibited ‘financial interest’ in a matter involving her or his public entity,” said Miller. He contends his client does not.

Villanueva and Hamai’s row aside, future funding of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department is going to be a contentious issue. You can read more about the proposed ballot initiative here