LOS ANGELES (CNS) — Sheriff Alex Villaneuva’s reinstatement of a deputy — which led county officials to file a lawsuit against the sheriff — was a rush to judgment contradicted by key evidence that may have gone unreviewed by the new administration, according to a report released today by the Office of Inspector General.
Even before he took office in December, Villanueva was working to try and reinstate former Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Deputy Caren Mandoyan, the report concluded.
Villanueva’s election victory was due in part to the support of rank-and-file deputies attracted by campaign promises of wide-ranging reforms, including a Truth and Reconciliation process to relitigate disciplinary decisions. Mandoyan was a campaign aide. Shortly after Villanueva’s election, the OIG made a formal request to the department asking for notification of any action on Truth and Reconciliation and received no response.
In January, the OIG learned about Mandoyan’s reinstatement. The deputy had been fired based on allegations of domestic violence, stalking and harassment of a woman he had dated. After an extensive re-review of the case, the OIG concluded that substantial evidence supported Mandoyan’s discharge, key pieces of evidence may not have been considered by Villaneuva and no evidence identified any bias against the deputy in the discipline process.
The agreement reinstating Mandoyan in exchange for dismissing civil claims against the county may be invalid, per the OIG. That position would support the stance taken by the county Board of Supervisors in its lawsuit.
A summary of the case against Mandoyan notes he was originally a reserve deputy and met the victim in the domestic violence case when they were both deputies at the West Hollywood Station.
Mandoyan allegedly threatened the woman and told her he had highly placed friends in the department, leading her to fear for her own job.
She alleged Mandoyan physically assaulted her in September 2014 and then, three months later, tried to break into her apartment.
In June 2015, she reported continuing harassment to her supervisor, who said she needed to file a police report. Mandoyan was relieved of duty the next month and the complainant obtained a restraining order in July.
The District Attorney’s Office declined to file criminal charges, citing insufficient evidence to overcome reasonable doubt, but Mandoyan was discharged in September.
The OIG said the evidence — including video — showed that Mandoyan was unfit to be rehired as a deputy.