Los Angeles sheriff runs department like his 'own personal fiefdom': lawsuit
Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva (AFP)

On Tuesday, Fox 11 News reported that Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva and his wife are accused of abuse of power and retaliation against subordinates in a new lawsuit.

"The lawsuit was filed by Vanessa Chow, a sergeant with the LASD who was also the sheriff’s liaison to the Board of Supervisors," reported Alexi Chidbachian. "In the lawsuit, the plaintiff claims unlawful retaliation by Sheriff Villanueva and those in his inner circle. One of those in his inner circle is his wife, Vivian Villanueva. According to the lawsuit, Chow claims she was repeatedly harmed by retaliation from the sheriff’s wife, Captain Yvonne O'Brien and Lieutenant Carmen Arballo."

"The lawsuit alleges that the sheriff and his wife run LASD like their 'own personal fiefdom and business by placing individuals whom they consider as allies in key positions within the department,' despite the individuals’ lack of qualifications and ethics," said the report. "An example of this included in the claim was the appointment of (then Lieutenant) Yvonne O’Brien as acting Captain of Personnel Administration Bureau despite her lack of qualifications, the lawsuit alleged. The lawsuit also claimed that Vivian Villanueva is an associate of the deputy gang, the Banditos, and has acted as the gang’s protector since Villanueva took the sheriff’s seat."

"The lawsuit also alleges Villanueva 'started a war against the County Board of Supervisors (BOS) for personal reasons' before he took office," the report continued. "'Villanueva had and has a bizarre chip on his shoulder against the BOS for endorsing the previous incumbent sheriff, James McDonnell, against him in the sheriff’s race,' the lawsuit stated. The lawsuit claims the sheriff refused to attend monthly meetings with the Supervisors, fought with them about the budget and would ‘bash’ the Supervisors in public."

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Villanueva was first elected in 2018 on a platform of reform. He has subsequently become controversial for his embrace of right-wing policies, and alleged abuses of power, including announcing an investigation into a Los Angeles Times reporter who reported the LASD attempted to cover up an incident where a deputy kneeled on a handcuffed inmate's head for three minutes. One opponent has branded him the "Donald Trump" of Los Angeles County.

He is seeking re-election this year amid a challenge from Robert Luna, the retired chief of Long Beach Police. Polls have suggested that Luna has a slim lead over Villanueva, with the race largely split along partisan lines with Republicans breaking for Villanueva and Democrats for Luna, but that many voters remain undecided.