LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — The L.A. County Board of Supervisors plans to vote Tuesday morning to remove the L.A. County Sheriff as the head of emergency operations.
“They’re using the pandemic as a trojan horse,” Sheriff Alex Villanueva said about the board. “It’s about politics, not public safety or public health.”
The board wants to replace Villanueva with the county’s CEO.
Supervisors say the move to remove Villanueva and replace him with the county’s CEO has been in the works for more than a year and stems from a disorganized response to the Woolsey Fire before Villanueva was sworn in as sheriff.
“The biggest concern over the Woolsey Fire was the recovery operations,” Villanueva said. “The recovery operations is actually the responsibility of the CEO.
The sheriff says supervisors are trying to reduce his power with a hasty last-minute decision.
“This is something they did in a midnight coup d’état,” he said. “Even the last version that’s being presented right now by the board was delivered in the middle of the night and no one has seen it until now.”
When KCAL9’s Pat Harvey asked Villanueva what he knows about setting up field hospitals and coordinating responses to health crises, the sheriff said it’s not his expertise but that future emergencies will be.
“99 percent of all emergencies are not health-driven,” Villanueva said. “They’re driven by public safety issues — either police or fire.”
“If you want to change the entire structure of emergency management to serve the one percent of emergencies, that’s a little on the weird side.”
Villanueva said the sheriff’s department is best equipped to quickly react to emergencies.
“We’re the only one that has a 24-hour capability,” he said. “This process shoves us aside and is going to lead to a lot of chaos and uncertainty at the worst time possible.”
The board says most other counties in California already operate their emergency department with a leader outside the sheriff’s department.
Villanueva, who has faced criticism from the board for a lack of transparency, says the board is not showing accountability in their effort to remove him.
“They’re trying to do this when the least amount of people are looking,” he said. “They’ve gone rogue on their own unchartered course.”
As far as some supervisors saying Villanueva is taking their decision personally, the sheriff said it doesn’t bother him.
“I’m focused on public safety,” he said.
KCAL9 requested comments from the board, including Supervisor Sheila Kuehl and Kathryn Barger, but has not yet received a response.
The meeting where they will vote on the proposal starts Tuesday at 9:30 a.m.