UPDATE: LA County Sheriff Removed as Emergency Ops Director, Reverses Course on Gun Stores

AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez

After a unanimous vote at Tuesday morning’s Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors meeting, embattled Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva is no longer the county’s Director of Emergency Operations. The county’s Chief Executive Officer will now have that responsibility.

It was Villanueva’s second loss in as many days. On Monday, facing a federal lawsuit by numerous gun rights organizations and in light of an Advisory Memorandum issued by the Department of Homeland Security, the Sheriff reversed his order deeming gun stores non-essential. In his announcement he implied that he still believed he had the authority to order them closed.

“Although explicitly advisory in nature, nonetheless the federal memorandum is persuasive given its national scope….Based on this further input from the federal government, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department will not order or recommend closure of businesses that sell or repair firearms or sell ammunition.”

On Monday Plaintiffs in the federal lawsuit against Villanueva filed an application for a temporary restraining order, which will be unnecessary if Villanueva doesn’t change his mind again on the issue of whether gun stores are essential or non-essential. Perhaps with this instability in mind, one plaintiff, Firearms Policy Coalition, “said Tuesday it planned to continue seeking a judgement and permanent injunction in court so Villanueva and subsequent sheriffs would not be able to do anything similar in the future.”

Villanueva’s response to the Board of Supervisors’ vote naming the county CEO as Director of Emergency Operations was characteristically acidic and uninformed.

“This will impact public safety and public health,” Villanueva warned. “They’re going to reassign the job to a financial analyst, and not a first responder with experience managing natural disasters and man-made. We’re in the middle of a global public health crisis.”

County CEO Sachi Hamai said in an emailed statement to Fox 11 Los Angeles that the county’s emergency efforts are a collaborative, team effort.

“OEM is made up of highly skilled individuals who have trained extensively to lead emergency efforts for the county…This group works day in and day out on all aspects of emergency management including planning, preparedness, response, recovery and mitigation. They also maintain critical relationships with the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.”

County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl said during the meeting that the change was not about Villanueva. “It’s really about the safety of the 10 million people in L.A. County. … He was not really elected to represent county residents. The five of us were.”

A few hours later, Villanueva issued a more tempered statement.

https://www.facebook.com/LosAngelesCountySheriffsDepartment/posts/3455845791108976

He said:

“I am committed to the public safety of all residents of Los Angeles County. I am still waiting for the Board of Supervisors and CEO to provide a transition plan. In the meantime, we will maintain our staffing at the County Emergency Operations Center until the county provides suitable replacements. We must work together to save lives.”

Villanueva’s displayed a complete unwillingness to be the leader that Los Angeles County needs at this time. Let’s hope the voters remember it.