Despite being subpoenaed to attend the Civilian Oversight Commission’s meeting Thursday, embattled Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said Wednesday he will not be there.
“Regarding the commission’s subpoena, you have to understand … the subpoena, Measure R, the ordinance enacted by the Board of Supervisors, all these things were generated without any oversight, without any third-party independent legal analysis of its constitutionality,” Villanueva said.
“That still remains in doubt, and until that issue is resolved I will not be adhering to any subpoena issued by either entity — be it the inspector general or the Oversight Commission.”
Villanueva said his department will be represented at Thursday’s meeting by Assistant Sheriff Bruce Chase, who “volunteered his time to go and testify to the commission and give them an update on all the COVID-19 efforts we are engaged in.”
Villanueva said his department is committed to being as transparent as possible, with the commission and the public, with information from the agency shared through the Transparency Project online resource.
The subpoena was issued as Villanueva was threatening to close the Altadena substation in order to balance the budget.
Villanueva has been engaged in a feud with the county Board of Supervisors.
“All the information that can legally be provided to the commission, to anybody, is always going to be available online. I want people to decide for themselves without any interference or middlemen,” the sheriff said.
Villanueva questioned the motives behind the subpoena.
“If the transparency is being provided and the information is provided, what exactly is the purpose of the subpoena?” he asked. “If they are engaged in a public shaming endeavor, which it looks like at face value, well they are sadly mistaken. We are not going to be participating in that. If it is an issue about providing information so the Oversight Commission can do their job, by all means we will give them all the information we can legally give them.”
The commission used its newly granted subpoena power for the first time after Villanueva did not attend or send a representative to a third consecutive meeting. The subpoena orders Villanueva and his representatives to attend the commission’s Thursday meeting.
Subpoena power was granted to the commission earlier this year by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. Voters in March approved Measure R, which also granted subpoena power to the commission.
“After repeated requests for the sheriff to attend our commission meetings, no one from the department has shown up,” Commission Chair Patti Giggans, executive director of Peace Over Violence, said earlier. “The meetings now conducted virtually twice a month due to the critical COVID-19 crisis are very well attended by the public. We are in a pandemic which calls for more oversight, more collaboration, more input into policy, not less. The role of the sheriff’s Civilian Oversight Commission is a public mandate and one that every commissioner takes seriously.”
Commissioners had hoped to question Villanueva during their last meeting about how his department was handling coronavirus cases in the county jail system, said Brian K. Williams, executive director of the Sheriff Civilian Oversight Commission. Williams said a letter from the commission to the sheriff was sent that same week requesting his presence, but the sheriff declined.
“This is the third meeting in a row where the sheriff’s department has not been represented, this is unfair to the commission, the community and the men and women of the sheriff’s department whose voice we also need to hear,” Williams said following the last meeting.
Thursday’s meeting will take place from 8 to 11:30 a.m. online with registration open at http://bit.ly/2Tfi0sC. Or call 415-655-0001 and enter access code 929 291 884.