Legal battle over reinstated L.A. county deputy costing taxpayers millions

ByLisa Bartley via KABC logo
Monday, August 19, 2019
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A legal battle between Los Angeles County government officials and Sheriff Alex Villanueva over fired deputy Caren Carl Mandoyan has already cost taxpayers millions of dollars.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Lawyers for two of the most powerful entities in Los Angeles County went head-to-head in court Friday. The issue: Who has the power to hire and fire deputy sheriffs?

The legal battle between the county government and the Sheriff's Department centers around Caren Carl Mandoyan - a sheriff's deputy who was fired by former Sheriff Jim McDonnell after Mandoyan's ex-girlfriend accused him of domestic violence and took video of him trying to break into her apartment.

After he was elected, Sheriff Alex Villanueva rehired Mandoyan over the county's objections. Now Mandoyan has been working for seven months without pay.

"He's an independent sheriff who is enforcing the constitution and state law and he intends to stay the course," says Steve Madison, an attorney for Villanueva and the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.

In court Friday, Judge Mitchell Beckloff strongly hinted that he would rule against the sheriff and in favor of the county.

"The tentative ruling went right down the line in our favor," says Skip Miller, who represents the county.

The tentative ruling was not released to the public. Attorneys on both sides made additional arguments in court after reading the tentative ruling.

Judge Beckloff took the matter under submission and said he expects to make a ruling next week.

County lawyers say Villanueva overstepped his authority by reinstating Mandoyan after the Civil Service Commission upheld the firing.

"If he wants to do it, he can only do hiring and firing consistent with county law," says Miller.

Los Angeles County taxpayers are footing the bill for both sides of this legal showdown.

"I saw one bill that almost stopped my heart -- wow!" said Villanueva on an LA Weekly podcast.

Villanueva told the LA Weekly it would have been cheaper to give Mandoyan what he asked for in back pay, asserting he was wrongfully fired by the previous sheriff.

"That one case they've all been up in arms since the beginning, I had it solved for $200,000. Lawyer fees alone is now crossing the $2 million mark," said Villanueva.

As of today, it's closer to $3 million in lawyer fees alone according to the LASD. That bill continues to rise as the court case proceeds.