‘No rehire’: Panel rules Villanueva violated county discrimination and harassment policy

(Nick Agro/Nick Agro/For The Times)

‘No rehire’: Panel rules Villanueva violated county discrimination and harassment policy

Homepage News, LA Politics

Keri Blakinger

January 31, 2024

An oversight panel recommended the former Los Angeles


Sheriff Alex Villanueva was ineligible for reappointment after officials found he discriminated against Inspector General Max Huntsman, according to records obtained by The Times.

In the first complaint

filed March 2022

Huntsman accused Villanueva of dog whistling against the extremists he serves when he repeatedly referred to the inspector general by his foreign-sounding birth name, Max-Gustaf. In an interview with The Times editors a few weeks later, Villanueva accused without evidence that Huntsman was a Holocaust denier.

You do realize that Max Huntsman, one, is a Holocaust denier, Villanueva told the board. I don’t know if you are aware of that. I got it from two different sources.

Villanueva declined to identify the sources at the time. He did not immediately respond to The Times’ request for comment on Wednesday.

Records show that after the department investigated the allegations, the County Equity Oversight Panel met in 2023 and found that Villanueva had several

policy against discrimination and harassment.

At that time, Villanueva was no longer sheriff, and the panel recommended that he receive a “Do Not Rehire” notation in his personnel file.

Villanueva is currently running for county supervisor, and it is unclear how this finding could impact his campaign.

On Wednesday,

The Sheriff’s Department confirmed to The Times that it was upholding the panel’s recommendation.

Meanwhile, Huntsman said he was pleased with the find.

“I’m glad Villanueva is no longer the sheriff and now that he’s gone, the facts have been dealt with in a more fair and objective manner,” he told The Times. But it doesn’t undo the damage done when an agency is allowed to operate above the law.

During his tenure, Villanueva sparred repeatedly with Huntsman, who was one of the department’s top critics as well as the chief watchdog charged with his oversight.

Villanueva made personal attacks on Huntsman and eventually banned him from the department’s facilities and databases, saying he was a suspect in two criminal cases.

Huntsman issued subpoenas to compel and at one point launch the sheriff’s cooperation


an investigation into whether Villanueva lied about a violent incident involving an inmate.

Amid that tension, Huntsman filed a complaint on March 9, 2022, which he told The Times this week he was required to do under county policy, accusing Villanueva of sending an email to the entire Sheriff’s Department that was a racially biased attack. In the email, Villanueva referred to Huntsman by his full name. Around the same time, during an interview on KFI-AM radio, the sheriff raised the issue again, adding, “He dropped the Gustaf for some reason, and there might be a story behind that .

When Villanueva learned of Huntsman’s complaint, he in turn told The Times editors about it, adding the new claim about Huntsman’s supposed Holocaust denial.

The editorial staff functions independently of The Times newsroom, and the interview during Villanueva’s re-election campaign was part of the board’s usual approval process during the 2022 election cycle.

Huntsman wrote a letter to the Board of Supervisors at the time, informing them of the sheriff’s allegations and offering a response. He wrote that Villanueva was a dog whistle to his more extreme supporters that I am German and/or Jewish and therefore un-American.

Huntsman explained his family’s history, saying his German grandfather had been conscripted into the Nazi army, but was not allowed to carry a gun because he had previously employed Jews. Growing up during the Holocaust, he said, his father had developed a deep distrust of authority. Huntsman’s father left Europe for North America after the end of the war, but abandoned the family shortly after his son was born. He gave me the name Max-Gustaf and that’s why I don’t use it, Huntsman wrote. I will never deny that the Holocaust happened.

During his internal affairs interview about his complaint, records show, Huntsman added that his father was a piece of work as a result of the Holocaust. He said the way the Nazis operated caused great harm to his family.

I’m not saying this is as bad as the Holocaust, but it had a direct impact on me, he said, according to a transcript of the interview in the summer of 2022. So the idea that I would deny the Holocaust is insane. I have no love for Nazi Germany; quite the opposite.

When Villanueva started using the inspector general’s birth name, Huntsman said he believed it was an attempt to say: These guys are foreigners; he is German or Jewish or both.

His internal affairs interview, conducted by an independent investigator hired by Huntsman County, also detailed the genesis of his tensions with the former sheriff, which he said dated back to at least 2019, when the Office of Inspector General began an investigation into Villanueva’s controversial decision to hire again. deputy who was fired for domestic violence and dishonesty.

As Huntsman’s office prepared to release a report on the issue, he said, he provided a draft to the Sheriff’s Department.

When I did, he cut off our computer access and I was asked by people in the county to convince him to change his mind, Huntsman said, according to the internal affairs transcript. In that context he said to me: If you release this report, there will be consequences.

Not long afterward, Huntsman said, Villanueva announced that the inspector general was the target of a criminal investigation and sent a letter to the Board of Supervisors asking that Huntsman be relieved of his duties.

Huntsman continued to work and his tensions with Villanueva continued.

Although heavily redacted Internal Affairs Bureau documents show Huntsman was interviewed by an investigator in the summer of 2022, it wasn’t until October 2023 that the county conducted oversight of the matter.


meet to discuss the matter and provide advice.


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