Villanueva Under Fire for Shake-Up at Local Sheriff’s Station

Malibu/Lost Hills Sheriffs

Malibu’s mayor and city manager met with Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva and his command staff on Monday, Feb. 24, in an effort to salvage relations between the newly elected sheriff and the five cities in western Los Angeles County known as the COG (council of governments), who sent him $25 million per year for police services.

Vuillanueva said he was elected to blow up what he called a failing system and, as far as the cities are concerned, he has succeeded in completely blowing up relations between the sheriff’s office and the cities that hire him.

Malibu is not alone in its anger over changes of command at the Malibu/Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station.

The five Las Virgenes-Malibu COG cities held a special meeting on Tuesday and all cities—Agoura Hills, Calabasas, Hidden Hills, Westlake Village and Malibu—let loose with complaints.

Representatives from all five cities, plus representatives from County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl’s office, met for 90 minutes with Villanueva and his command staff. They said they were shocked to learn that yet another command staff turnover had occurred.

Villanueva had hired a new north division chief and not informed the city governments. 

“Basically, we uniformly expressed our concerns over the numerous personnel changes in the abruptness of them and the appointments of new people at the station without input from the COG, which is a big change of how it’s been handled from the past,” Malibu Mayor Karen Farrer said.

The appointment of Lt. Chuck Becerra at Malibu Lost Hills as the acting captain appeared to be especially grating. 

Becerra was interviewed for the Malibu/Lost Hills captain job a half year ago but was rejected by the city managers. The city officials said they were very less than pleased to hear Becerra was reinstated as the police chief for the five cities. 

Calabasas City Manager Gary Lysik said imposing a city police chief on the contract cities is not acceptable. 

The meeting on Monday, he said, was to lay down the expectation that this would not happen again. 

“It was basically for the sheriff to come to the realization that cities need to participate in the selection of a new captain,” Lysik said, “and, at the end of that meeting, that objective, in my opinion, was met.”

When asked by a reporter from KBUU News whether the sheriff’s position changed when he met with the city officials, Lysik said he believed it did.

“I actually believe it so, because going into it, we received a phone call—each of the five city managers received a phone call—indicating the command change at Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station and the possibility that the sheriff would appoint a new replacement captain.

“At the end of that meeting, after hearing in each of us speak for a while, I believe he came to the new—right—conclusion that is important for each of the five cities to be involved in that selection process,” Lysik said.

For now, they are drafting a letter to send to the department voicing their concerns.

The city managers are in a tough spot. They need to consult and concur with their city councils in five different cities. They expect to draft a letter to the sheriff by Friday to reiterate what they and he said at the Monday meeting.

Farrer said if that fails, the four other cities seem to be receptive to the concept of exploring dumping the sheriff’s department as city police agencies.

“I think the group was receptive to it, but it was not on today’s agenda so I think that will be on a future agenda,” Farrer said Tuesday.

And in the middle of all this, the sheriff’s captain who was dumped by Villanueva last week and demoted has been reinstated as a captain. 

Three sources have confirmed to KBUU News that Captain Matthew Vander Horck had his captain’s bars back.