The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Wednesday, Aug. 31, disputed a sergeant’s claim that she has been emotionally unable to return to work after allegedly suffering retaliation for being critical of Sheriff Alex Villanueva and his wife, saying the plaintiff’s allegations will be proven false in court.
In a statement, the department called Sgt. Vanessa Chow‘s Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit against the county “a compendium of false statements, omissions, mischaracterizations and outright lies.”
The complaint was “strategically designed to drum up publicity for numerous other failing lawsuits, while also assisting the county in attempting to influence the outcome of the upcoming election,” according to the department. Some 15 “frivolous lawsuits” have been filed against the department, all of which have the common thread of a lack of accountability for poor performance by the plaintiffs, the department further contends, adding, “We look forward to vigorously challenging these lawsuits in court.”
In her lawsuit, Chow alleges Villanueva has “held himself out as above the law and immune to accountability, with leadership operating with the lack of transparency and audacity of a third-world dictatorship and evading any oversight.”
Villanueva has “lied repeatedly to the public” by claiming the Board of Supervisors has a vendetta against him, but at the same time the supervisors have “done nothing to curb Villanueva’s corruption, retaliation against whistleblowers, and extreme abuse of power,” the suit further states. Her suit states that Chow is “too distressed to return to work and she has been constructively terminated from LASD.”
The LASD maintains Chow is still employed by the department. In a separate statement, a representative for the county said there would be no comment on the suit because it is pending litigation.
Chow became the sheriff’s liaison to the Board of Supervisors in October 2018, shortly before Villanueva’s election. When Chow informed Villanueva that the Board of Supervisors wanted to build a working relationship with him, he told her to tell the supervisors “they could go (epithet) themselves,” for not endorsing him, a message the plaintiff did not relay to the board, the suit states.
Villanueva viewed Chow as an “important vehicle to do battle” with the supervisors, but over time the sheriff grew frustrated and angry with her when she “refused to take part in illegal conduct and spoke out against such corruption acts, and repeatedly advising the sheriff to not engage in wrongful conduct and reporting that conduct when the sheriff refused to follow rules and laws,” the suit states.
Chow alleges she was given an unfairly low score on the lieutenant’s exam, which she further maintains was part of the retaliation against her. Villanueva’s wife, Vivian Villanueva — who retired four years ago — is “an associate of the deputy gang, the Banditos, and has acted as the gang’s protector during Alex Villanueva’s reign as sheriff,” the suit alleges.
“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 these individuals’ lack of qualifications and ethics, while weeding out individuals with integrity, without regard for their accomplishments or contributions,” the suit alleges.
Chow has suffered temporary lower body paralysis and cancer as well as severe financial losses and emotional distress because of the alleged retaliation, according to her suit.
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