LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors removed Sheriff Alex Villanueva as head of the county’s emergency operations center on Tuesday, a day after he reversed an order to close gun shops amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The supervisors said the unanimous vote was in response to the 2018 Woolsey Fire that charred nearly 100,000 acres in Los Angeles and Ventura counties and destroyed a number of structures, and the need to centralize disaster operations, the Los Angeles Times reported.
“The new protocols bring Los Angeles County into alignment with modern best practices that recommend use of deeply-trained disaster management professionals to manage emergency functions that often span a full range of critical functions such as public health, housing and health services, in addition to public safety,” a board statement said.
Villanueva will be replaced with the county CEO, who becomes responsible for coordinating response activities.
The sheriff blasted the board’s decision. He referred to the move as a “silent coup,” as he reinforced his commitment to public safety in Los Angeles County.
“I’m still waiting for the Board of Supervisors and CEO to provide a transition plan,” he said. “In the meantime, we will maintain staffing at the County Emergency Operations Center until the county provides suitable replacements.”
We are back online to discuss the @CountyofLa Board of Supervisors regarding their Board Motion to modify the county charter and how we manage emergencies. Watch me live by visiting our Facebook page.
— Alex Villanueva (@LACoSheriff) March 31, 2020
Moreover, Villanueva called the move irresponsible during the board’s virtual meeting, according to the Times.
“It’s not gonna add more ventilators, it’s not gonna add more masks out there to first responders, it definitely does not improve functions,” he said. “When it comes to life and death matters, I don’t take it lightly.”
“It’s really about the safety of the 10 million people in L.A. County. … He was not really elected to represent county residents,” Supervisor Sheila Kuehl said. “The five of us were.”
Sachi A. Hamai is currently the Chief Executive Officer of Los Angeles County, according to lacounty.gov. In October 2019 she announced her pending retirement in “early 2020,” reported Los Angeles County news.
Villanueva and the board have repeatedly clashed since his 2018 election over issues ranging from hiring to oversight.
The timing of the move comes as the sheriff reversed a decision to close gun shops in the county by deeming them nonessential businesses. The move drew the ire of gun-rights advocates and prompted the National Rifle Association to file a lawsuit against the sheriff and California Gov. Gavin Newsom last week, Fox News reported.
“Municipalities who target lawful gun stores for closure aren’t promoting safety — by weaponizing their politics to disarm you and your loved ones, these shameless partisans are recklessly promoting a gun-control agenda that suffocates your self-defense rights when you need them most,” Jason Ouimet, the NRA-ILA’s executive director, said in a statement.