LA County Sheriff cites retaliation by county leaders amid coronavirus pandemic

Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva told FOX 11 he believes he’s the target of political retaliation after county leaders filed an urgency ordinance Wednesday afternoon that would remove him as Director of Emergency Operations during this coronavirus crisis if it’s passed.

“This is all about a power grab,” Villanueva said. “It’s a silent coup."

Villanueva believes the move came in response to comments he made to FOX 11 reporter Bill Melugin Monday night. That's when he criticized the board of supervisors for their press conferences outside the chain of command and their messaging with stay at home orders.

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The sheriff says he's a victim of politics and is being retaliated against for his criticism, but the county says politics has nothing to do with this.

The sheriff isn't buying it.

"I could never think that someone in the middle of a worldwide pandemic crisis is trying to sack the quarterback in the middle of the game," Villanueva said., FOX launches national hub for COVID-19 news and updates.

Supervisor Kathryn Barger tells FOX 11, "This action was voted on in November. We as a county as a whole work together. It's about doing what's right for public health. We will remain committed as a whole to protecting the residents of LA County."

"The board knows very well that we started a big task force after the Woolsey fire. One major recommendation was on an ancient ordinance from 65 years ago matching 2/3 of the counties in California and bring it up to date because it is no longer appropriate for a law enforcement officer to oversee a health crisis or environmental crisis. It needs to be in a broader jurisdiction. He seems to have a very fragile ego," Supervisor Sheila Kuehl told FOX 11.

Where the relationship will go from here between the sheriff and the board remains to be seen.

"It's absolute hogwash. These are the same people who were supporting my predecessor who was the sheriff strangely during the Woolsey fire which I had nothing to do with so to then try to claim this is about the Woolsey fire were not 15 months later that’s very bizarre," Villanueva responded.

This ordinance will be voted on Tuesday.

If it passes the sheriff will only oversee law enforcement during an emergency. The sheriff says he will pull all his resources out of the emergency operations center if he’s removed.

FOX 11's Shelly Insheiwat contributed.