Proposed County Charter Amendment Heads to Ballot Box

On Tuesday, Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger issued a statement following the Board of Supervisors’ final approval of a November ballot measure giving the Board authority to remove a publicly elected sheriff from office for cause.   

“I want to be clear about my position,” Barger stated. “Giving the Board of Supervisors authority to remove an elected sheriff unequivocally takes away power from the public. It’s a move that has the potential to disenfranchise voters. It also overlooks the fact that a recall process already exists to remove elected officials who fail to perform their duties.  

“I’ve firmly and consistently voiced my vote to not support this charter amendment. Now that it has been approved by the Board to appear on the ballot on Election Day, the ultimate decision rests in the hands of our LA County voters who will also elect a sheriff that day. I’m hopeful they will show up to voice their collective will.”

The ordinance was approved by the Board of Supervisors and drafted by County counsel. According to Supervisor Holly Mitchell, the proposed charter amendment preserves the public’s right to elect a sheriff and does not interfere with the independent and constitutionally designated responsibilities of a sheriff. Cause for the removal of a sheriff is detailed in the measure and the measure would allow the Board to implement a process to provide written notice to a sheriff of the grounds for removal, followed by an opportunity for the sheriff to be heard, and a public four-fifths vote by the Board in order to approve any removal. Unlawful actions and violations of duties that qualify as cause for the Board to vote to remove a sheriff include:

  • Violation of any law related to the performance of a sheriff’s duties;
  • Flagrant or repeated neglect of a sheriff’s duties as defined by law;
  • Misappropriation of public funds or property as defined in California law;
  • Willful falsification of a relevant official statement or document; or
  • Obstruction, as defined in federal, state, or local law applicable to a sheriff, of any investigation into the conduct of a sheriff and/or the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Dept. by any government agency, office, or commission with jurisdiction to conduct such an investigation

According to Supervisor Mitchell, the Board, with support from community advocates and the Sheriff Civilian Oversight Commission, has taken significant steps to create a system of accountability and transparency in which the sheriff can operate lawfully – this includes granting the Sheriff Civilian Oversight Commission the power to subpoena the sheriff. However, this system lacks a sustainable ability to quickly respond to unlawful actions and egregious misconduct within a County that has a history of sheriff corruption.

In May of this year, the Sheriff Civilian Oversight Commission issued a resolution urging the Board to place a charter amendment on the November ballot to strengthen accountability for public safety by establishing additional checks and balances on the Sheriff.

“For the Civilian Oversight Commission, the action taken by the Board of Supervisors is a step toward bringing another means for accountability to an office that wields power and influence over our community” said Brian Williams, executive director, Sheriff Civilian Oversight Commission.

The Board approved the July 12 motion, authored by Chair Holly J. Mitchell and co-authored by Supervisor Hilda L. Solis, directing County counsel to draft the ordinance to bring the charter amendment to voters.

A copy of the ordinance is below.

Analysis of Ordinance Call for special election