SUBPOENAS UNDER AB 1185
October 20, 2021
Tomorrow, neither I nor my Undersheriff will appear under oath before the Civilian Oversight Commission (COC), due to pending legal concerns which have yet to make their way through the courts regarding the scope and authority of the new law concerning oversight. This is a matter which must be given time to make its way through the legal system. A conflict of interest has existed between myself and the Board of Supervisors for some time now, and through their appointed commissioners they have vilified me for using the legal system to clarify the many areas which are undefined and unclear in the subpoena process. Rather than allow due process to work, the Board’s commissioners further clog the system with unnecessary actions, in an effort to delegitimize both myself and my department.
There was no need for subpoenas. I agreed to appear voluntarily, at minimum, 3 times per year, and have already done so. The COC does not extend the courtesy of checking with my schedule or even sending a special request to appear, they just issue subpoenas. Although they have subpoena power, it is an abuse of power to simply use it to demand I show up and then testify under oath. There is no current investigation. They are not a legislative body. They have no authority over a duly elected sheriff, other than oversight. They are there to offer advice, not interrogate. I have freely answered questions in the past, so why now do they want to interrogate me under oath in an adversarial setting?
Tomorrow’s COC meeting will be filled with the same rancorous politically motivated rhetoric as usual. As they grandstand and gaslight, remember these are the same BOS appointees who voted unanimously for my resignation, with zero evidence of misconduct, yet have been deafeningly silent regarding the federal indictment of former Chair of the Board of Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas for 20 counts of public corruption. The same Mark Ridley-Thomas who appointed most of the commissioners to their positions on the COC. The same Mark Ridley-Thomas who called for my resignation, then authored a Board motion ordering County Counsel to explore ways to overturn the results of the election and remove me from office. One COC commissioner, personally appointed by Mark Ridley-Thomas, actually led a “citywide prayer service” in support of Mark Ridley-Thomas this past weekend. With his indictment, a new light has been shed on his, and his surrogates, obsession towards my removal from office.
The COC will condemn me loudly for pursuing the legitimate legal process that any Sheriff would avail themselves. Yet, this same COC chose not to honor a continuance of their subpoenas in order for the Undersheriff and I to retain independent counsel, after current County Counsel Rodrigo Castro-Silva was notified of a clear conflict of interest. Unfortunately, at times the Board of Supervisors’ interests and the Sheriff’s interests will be at odds and the Board will infringe and interfere on the authority of the sheriff. The law provides for these differences and I am seeking clarity, as is appropriate under the circumstances.
Do not be deceived by their politically motivated rhetoric. Understand and know this department provides requests for information to the COC and Office of the Inspector General. Please visit our tracker on the LASD.org website. OIG and COC receive regular updates as to their information requests and have received thousands upon thousands of documents to inform them regarding oversight. These subpoenas are political theater and once the courts rule on the issues at hand, it will be seen by all for what it was. I remain committed to transparency and accountability, but under a process which is constitutionally sound, and not a political weapon to attack others. I seek a remedy in the court in an effort to establish a fair process going forward where the rules and standards are clear for all sheriffs and Boards of Supervisors throughout the state in dealing with the new transparency laws should they find themselves in similar disagreement.
Sheriff Alex Villanueva