THE TALE OF A DIVIDED LOS ANGELES SHERIFF’S DEPARTMENT

EMPLOYEE UNIONS AT ODDS OVER THEIR SUPPORT OF SHERIFF VILLANUEVA SEND DIFFERENT MESSAGES TO THE PUBLIC BY THEIR OPPOSING ENDORSEMENTS. WHAT MESSAGE DOES THIS ALSO SEND TO EMPLOYEES?

In a previous post, we explained the consequences of a union endorsement for Villanueva and it seems that at least half of our readers agree.

Last month the two largest unions representing employees of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department revealed support for who they think is best suited to lead the department for the next four years. In one corner we have The Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sherffs (ALADS) which represents only sworn personnel below the rank of sergeant. They are the certified bargaining unit for deputy sheriffs and district attorney investigators working in Los Angeles County. In the opposing corner, we have The Los Angeles County Professional Peace Officers Association (PPOA) with a broader membership more representative of the community consisting of sworn personnel above the rank of deputy along with thousands of non-sworn personnel who work a variety of important assignments.

There is a third lesser-known union, the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Professional Association (LASPA) that was founded by Alex Villanueva in 1999 as an alternative to ALADS and PPOA. However, LASPA has never enjoyed a large membership and is (and was) always meant to attract disgruntled defectors from ALADS and PPOA who joined LASPA as a means of protest. Because of that, LASPA’s political influence is virtually nonexistent.

THE TEAMS HAVE FORMED

In one corner we have ALADS and in the other we have PPOA. Last month, ALADS endorsed Alex Villanueva for sheriff while PPOA endorsed challenger Eli Vera for the top spot. How can these birds of a feather be so divergent? Well, it’s simple. ALADS is comprised largely of the “young and dumb” (it’s okay, we were all there once), the majority of which don’t even live or vote in Los Angeles County. In contrast, PPOA represents department supervisors and professional non-sworn career employees who actually live and vote in LA County and in contrast to ALADS, have significant department experience per capita.

By its very design, the ALADS Board of Directors and their president have never risen above the rank of Deputy and as we have said, nor has their membership. Don’t get us wrong, there is nothing wrong with spending your career at an entry-level rank, but those who have never managed personnel through the thick of their career like PPOA members have, are questionably qualified to make endorsements that will determine the management direction of the entire department. In this case, ALADS has it dead wrong.

ALADS members are also known as the hard-charging, no-nonsense, and often uninformed worker bees who instinctually look up to defiant leadership for better or for worse. This is where the calm reasonableness of PPOA offers significant contrast to ALADS.

THE ADULT IN THE ROOM

PPOA represents a more “mature” union that recognizes the importance of organizational leadership and more importantly the ability to recognize a lack of leadership. PPOA is a union comprised of members who deal with the public on every level and their supervisory members are the ones left to reassemble the public trust in the wake of a critical incident. In other words, PPOA members can see the danger of a sheriff who is toxic and not a sheriff for all the people.

A BIT OF INSIDE INFORMATION HELPS

Interesting is the fact that the producers of this blog actually know or have worked with the board members of ALADS and PPOA. Confidentially, the board members of ALADS will tell you how much they dislike Villanueva. They see him as a toxic personality who is unethical and a bad guy who created a team of “secret police” that has targeted ALADS members by (in their own words) “unconventional means”. The support of Villanueva is inconsistent too since ALADS board members are generally older and well-grounded, quick to condemn any elected official suspected of lawbreaking or unethical behavior.

But when it comes to first-hand knowledge of their own sheriff who is facing credible accusations of favoritism, disobeying subpoenas, and targeting his critics with frivolous criminal allegations, ALADS is yelling “Hell yes!” to a Villanueva second term.

In any event, ALADS knows that a possible Eli Vera win is no threat to them because Vera doesn’t hold a grudge like Alex and Vivian do. But just in case, ALADS split that baby by endorsing Villanueva without any financial donation, in-kind or otherwise. Read into that all you want.

In the end, hypocrisy knew no bounds, and why? Because the young and dumb (calm down, like I said,,,,) ALADS membership will defect to LASPA and that scares ALADS more than surviving another four more years of Alex Villanueva and his wife.

ENCOURAGING BAD ACTORS

As a result of their endorsement, ALADS has sent a wink and a nod to their members that rogue and highly unprofessional behavior is just fine with them. ALADS can think about that the next time one of their members is fired by Villanueva for disobeying a subpoena or targeting a member of the public with a phony criminal investigation.

Always remember this. Subordinates will mirror the behavior of their supervisors. So I guess the question is, why should we be surprised that ALADS endorsed Villanueva when the line deputies that make up the ALADS board have never supervised anything more complicated than their own annual picnic at Raging Waters?

PPOA’s DOG IN THE FIGHT

Across the ring from ALADS is PPOA’s entry for sheriff. PPOA has endorsed retired Chief Eli Vera for sheriff. We say “chief” only because Villanueva demoted Vera to commander after Vera announced his intent to unseat the incumbent. PPOA made the bold move in opposition to Villanueva because they recognized a deep belief in the leadership qualities of Vera who has never managed by toxic decree, or intimidation, nor has Vera ever condoned rogue behavior. With Eli Vera as sheriff, the department can move without headwind and still achieve the goals consistent with the majority of both PPOA and ALADS members.

INTEGRITY HAS ITS PRICE

But all is not well at PPOA. Among their ranks are some who are threatening to drop their membership and defect to LASPA over PPOA’s opposition to Villanueva. Some are even mounting a recall effort. Insiders tell us that the PPOA board is concerned about these potential defectors but to that we say, let them go to join ranks with the irrelevant LASPA membership. Any supervisor on the LASD that condones the behavior of Villanueva shouldn’t be a supervisor.

There is an old saying that supervisors who supervise like deputies, are really just deputies with stripes. They are dangerous to the organization, they ignore unethical behavior and undermine the public confidence. PPOA should stand on principle and welcome the purge from their membership ranks.

PPOA needs to stand up to its membership and remind them that any one of their constituents would be fired for mirroring the behavior of Villanueva. Ask any one of them what would happen if they disobeyed a subpoena, opened a retaliatory criminal investigation against an opponent, fixed a promotional exam to favor a friend, covered a potentially criminal use of excessive force, tried to use county funds to construct their own private heliport, created a hostile work environment, allowed their wife to dictate county business, retaliated against whistleblowers, on and on and on.

Name one time Eli Vera has been remotely accused of these things. Use the link and send us an email but we won’t hold our breath. Rather than support the ethics of Eli Vera, the Villanueva supporters would rather go down with the ship instead of voting for calmer waters where the vast majority gets what they need from a sheriff.

There will be no greater gift than a runoff between Eli Vera and Alex Villanueva. ALADS will be forced to defend the behavior of Villanueva and suffer the consequences while PPOA will enjoy standing with Candidate Eli Vera on the high ground. It will be an unprecedented and epic battle.

EITHER WAY…

Message to the ALADS Board, the next time you sit down at the negotiating table and ask the County Supervisors for a raise, you might as well just plead with them to keep the benefits you already have because they are coming for you. Elections have consequences.