LOS ANGELES – A Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy who was fired over domestic violence allegations but rehired after Alex Villanueva was elected sheriff was ordered by a judge Monday to surrender his badge and gun and stop identifying himself as a law enforcement officer.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mitchell Beckloff granted a preliminary injunction, finalizing a tentative ruling he reviewed during a hearing Friday with attorneys for Deputy Caren Carl Mandoyan, Villanueva and the county Board of Supervisors, which sued the sheriff in hopes of nullifying Mandoyan’s rehiring.
Under the ruling, Mandoyan was ordered to “relinquish all county property in his possession, including any Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department-issued uniform, badge and weapon.” It also orders him to “cease to hold himself out as a Los Angeles County deputy sheriff,” while also ordering Villanueva to “cease to recognize or hold Mandoyan out as a deputy sheriff or a county employee, and direct the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department to act in accordance herewith.”
The preliminary injunction will remain in effect “pending the trial of this action or further order of this court.”
Villanueva has repeatedly defended bringing Mandoyan back to the department, questioning the allegations against the deputy and accusing the county’s Civil Service Commission of ignoring evidence that could have cleared Mandoyan of wrongdoing.
Mandoyan, who worked on Villanueva’s campaign, was fired in 2016 following allegations of domestic violence, stalking and harassment of a woman he dated. According to an Office of Inspector General report released earlier this year, the sheriff’s department also found that Mandoyan lied to Internal Affairs investigators.
Villanueva’s decision to rehire Mandoyan late last year outraged members of the Board of Supervisors, who filed a lawsuit seeking to nullify the action. Beckloff in March, however, declined the county’s request for a temporary restraining order voiding Mandoyan’s rehiring.
But in his ruling finalized Monday, Beckloff said Villanueva did not have the authority to reach a legal settlement with Mandoyan that resulted in his rehiring by the department, noting that such an action needed to be approved by the Board of Supervisors.
Attorneys for Villanueva have argued that the sheriff was told by County Counsel that he had the authority to rehire deputies and review the agency’s past disciplinary actions against deputies. But Beckloff noted in his ruling that Villanueva was repeatedly told by one of his undersheriffs that he “couldn’t hire Mandoyan back the way he wanted to do it.”
UPDATE: Villanueva issued a statement saying he was disappointed in the ruling, but will abide by it. “As such, I have immediately implemented the court’s will regarding Deputy Mandoyan until a verdict is given at trial,” he said. “I remain hopeful and optimistic that the Board of Supervisors and I can get back to finding solutions together to end the homelessness crisis, as well as security better care for all of our inmates given the Board of Supervisors’ recent vote to stop the conversion of Men’s Central Jail into a mental health treatment center, resulting in a massive loss of millions of taxpayer dollars.”
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