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Unhappy With The Sheriff? Measure A Would Give Officials The Power To Remove Them

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If L.A. County voters pass Measure A tomorrow, it would give the L.A. County Board of Supervisors the authority to remove an elected sheriff when they violate the law, lie in official statements, or obstruct a criminal investigation.

This seems especially important when you have a sheriff in power, like Alex Villanueva today, who defies court subpoenas, allegedly targets critics and journalists with frivolous investigations, rehires deputies who have been fired for misconduct, attempts to misappropriate public funds, and refuses to acknowledge the existence of deputy gangs widely asserted to exist within their ranks.

Currently, one of the only ways to remove an elected sheriff is through a costly (and rare) recall effort.

For context, a group tried to recall L.A. County District Attorney George Gascon TWICE. They received the backing of a billionaire mayoral candidate and many other wealthy donors, raised millions of dollars, and collected hundreds of thousands signatures. But failed both times.

So far, Measure A has been endorsed by the L.A. Times Editorial Board and more than a hundred civil justice groups in L.A., including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). And, as of this weekend… Hollywood actor/director, Mark Ruffalo.

Proponents of Measure A say the law will provide necessary checks and balances. But does it give too much power to the five representatives who make up the board of supervisors and already control the sheriff's wallet? That decision is mostly up to voters.

Given that sheriff is an elected position, opponents of Measure A believe that the ballot initiative could be unconstitutional. Sheriff Alex Villanueva, unsurprisingly one of the most vocal opponents of the initiative, called Measure A "a cheap political stunt" and has suggested he might pursue legal action in court.

At least one supervisor, Kathryn Barger, has raised questions about why Measure A only applies to one elected official and not others (like the board of supervisors themselves).

Villanueva and the board have had an especially contentious relationship during the sheriff's four year term.

Earlier this year, Supervisor Sheila Khuel's home was raided one early morning due to an ongoing criminal investigation into a contract that was awarded to a non-profit run by a friend of hers. Khuel has denied any wrongdoing and she and her supporters have said that the probe is "politically motivated."

Khuel isn't the only person that Villanueva has sought charges against out of alleged retaliation. Inspector General Mark Huntsman, Villanueva's former political opponent Eli Vera, and Alene Tchekmedyian, an L.A. Times reporter who covers the department, were all identified as subjects of a criminal probe following a damning story in The Times about alleged inmate abuses at a jail facility run by the sheriff’s department.

Tomorrow, L.A. County voters will not only have a chance to elect a new sheriff. They will also take all of the above information into consideration and make a decision about Measure A.

Do we create another avenue to hold our sheriff accountable or keep moving in the same direction we've long been headed? A direction that costs taxpayers tens-of-millions of dollars each year to settle lawsuits and results in too many people being killed.

We will soon find out.

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