Sheriff’s deputy reinstatements put on hold

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Reinstating fired deputies has been put on hold, Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva told the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Tuesday, but the embattled Sheriff said there’s still as many as 400 deputy dismissals to reconsider.

Villanueva has been under fire from the Board of Supervisors recently due to his reinstatement of Deputy Caren Carl Mandoyan. Mandoyan was fired in 2016 by then-Sheriff Jim McDonnell after allegedly grabbing a fellow deputy by the neck, trying to break into her home and harassing her via text message.

Although prosecutors investigated, they declined to file charges. A county appeals board heard evidence and upheld the dismissal.

Villanueva reinstated Mandoyan upon taking office, with more reinstatements being considered since then. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas this week recommended instructing Villanueva to stop unilaterally reinstating fired deputies until all related legal questions have been resolved.

His motion, co-authored by Supervisor Sheila Kuehl and unanimously approved by the board, also directed county lawyers to determine whether the sheriff’s “Truth and Reconciliation” panel, which he has been using to clear the reinstatements, is legal.

The county has only limited authority over the elected sheriff and filed a lawsuit last week seeking to void his decision to reinstate Mandoyan. However, a judge threw out the proposed injunction on reinstatements, saying there was no urgency to the matter.

Villanueva sees himself as a reformer, pulling the department back from poorly-applied standards implemented by Sheriffs Lee Baca and Jim McDonnell since 2012. Stricter punishment for deputy misconduct formed the large part of those new standards.

“Somewhere along the line someone decided that moving the goalposts was acceptable,” Villanueva said at the Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday.

However, it was precisely such policy roll-backs that have supervisors nervous.

“You seem to be very pleased to go back to the 2012 rules and I think that sends a terrible message,” Kuehl told the sheriff. Additionally, Interim Inspector General Rod Castro-Silva told the board that internal investigations at the department have been closed at an increased rate since Villanueva took office.

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