Signal Staff Writer Tammy Murga contributed to this report.
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors is looking to remove Sheriff Alex Villanueva from heading the county’s emergency response efforts.
In the March 31 board agenda, supervisors plan to vote on the removal of Villanueva as the head of emergency operations, instead placing county Chief Executive Officer Sachi A. Hamai in charge of the county’s emergency response.
Currently, Villanueva is in charge of the county’s emergency operations center during the coronavirus outbreak.
In an interview with the Los Angeles Times on Wednesday, Villanueva said the move was a “pure power grab at the worst time possible.”
“This is pretty much a silent coup, what they’re trying to orchestrate,” Villanueva told the Times. “We should be worried about masks, about test kits, and I have (5th District Supervisor) Kathryn Barger worried about guns and ammunition.”
Thursday morning, Villanueva issued a statement saying gun and ammunition stores were not considered essential businesses and must close to the general public.
“During the closure , they shall be permitted to sell ammunition to security guard companies,” said Villanueva. “Also, I am making an exception for those who have already lawfully purchased a firearm, possess a valid California Firearms Safety certificate and simply need to take possession of their firearm.”
However, officials from Barger’s office on Thursday said the move has been in the works since November of last year due to a report about the county’s response to the Woolsey Fire. The November 2018 blaze burned for two weeks, killing three people and destroying 96,949 acres.
“This precipitated from the Woolsey Fire and a need to re-identify how the county responds to emergency situations,” said Michelle Vega, a spokeswoman for Barger. “It kind of took a more holistic view of the county’s response to any crisis.”
Vega said Villanueva’s office was a part of the working group that had created the ordinance, and that it was not in response to the coronavirus pandemic. She said the item had to be completed in 90 days after it had been first introduced in November, and was on the docket for the March 17 supervisors’ meeting that had been canceled due to the governor’s order dispersing gatherings.
Villanueva’s office was not immediately available to The Signal for comment as of the publication of this story.
Deputy Erin Liu of the Sheriff’s Information Bureau said Villanueva’s office had been made aware of the county motion and that SIB is waiting on a statement from his office as of Thursday morning.
This is a breaking news story and will be updated as more information becomes available.