LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – Los Angeles County officials are taking steps to try and reverse Sheriff Alex Villanueva’s controversial reinstatement of a deputy who was fired in 2016 over allegations of domestic abuse.
In 2016, Deputy Sheriff Caren Carl Mandoyan was fired by then-Sheriff Jim McConnell after a fellow deputy alleged Mandoyan grabbed her by the neck, tried to break into her home twice, sent her harassing text messages and admitted to listening to her conversations, according to the Los Angeles Times. A county appeals board heard evidence in the case and upheld Mandoyan’s dismissal.
Mandoyan was never criminally charged in the case.
Despite his firing, Mandoyan played a key role in Villanueva’s election campaign last year in which he narrowly defeated McConnell. He served as Villanueva’s driver during the campaign and appeared on-stage at his swearing-in ceremony in December.
Villanueva reinstated Mandoyan in his first weeks as sheriff.
Last week, L.A. County Auditor-Controller John Naimo, the county’s chief accountant, issued a letter stating that Mandoyan, would no longer be paid and must turn in his gun and badge, the Times reports.
“Your reinstatement was unlawful,” stated the letter dated Feb. 28, according to the Times.
The letter to Mandoyan says he is “not authorized to serve as a Department employee” and that his salary and other benefits were stopped last month. It adds that Villanueva, who isn’t authorized to override decisions made by other high-ranking county officials, knew of the board’s decision.
In January, Villanueva defended the move at an L.A. County Board of Supervisors meeting in which the board passed a motion reprimanding Villanueva for reinstating Mandoyan.
“When you hear the details of the cases, you’re going to have a change of mind,” the sheriff told the supervisors at the time.
Speaking before the Sheriff Civilian Oversight Commission that same month, Villanueva questioned the credibility of the accuser, saying the fact that she waited nearly a year to report her claims and her decision to quit the department just before she was about to testify were “big warning signs.”
Naimo said Sunday that he consulted with the county counsel before sending the letter and had copied the Board of Supervisors.
“This personnel matter is under review and will be decided through the legal employment process,” Villanueva told the Times in a written statement Sunday. “While the specific facts of this case are protected under the Peace Officer Bill of Rights and civil service procedures, I can assure that an objective, honest, and fair assessment was conducted before reinstatement. We will let the process continue forward as we work to determine the final outcome.”
Villanueva won an upset election against McDonnell in November. He vowed to lessen cooperation between his department and federal immigration officials as well as reconsider some of the reforms enacted in recent years after a massive corruption scandal brought down longtime Sheriff Lee Baca and other top leaders.
(© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)