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Appeals court rules Villanueva's reinstatement of fired deputy was unlawful

Court rules Sheriff Villanueva lacked legal authority to rehire Caren Mandoyan after he was fired
Court rules Sheriff Villanueva lacked legal authority to rehire Caren Mandoyan after he was fired 02:46

The Court of Appeal of the State of California on Thursday ruled that Sheriff Alex Villanueva's reinstatement of a deputy fired by the previous sheriff was unlawful after years of legal process. 

When Villanueva was sworn in as Los Angeles County Sheriff in 2018, one of his first acts of business was to reinstate Deputy Caren Mandoyan, who was fired by then-Sheriff Jim McDonnell, after he was accused of allegedly stalking and abusing his then-girlfriend, who was also a deputy at the time. 

Video from the time shows Mandoyan attempting to force entry into her home.

The scandal is one of the original reasons that caused tensions to boil over between Villanueva and the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, most recently highlighted by the warrants obtained by LASD to search Supervisor Sheila Kuehl's home and the offices of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. 

During a Wednesday night debate between candidates for sheriff, Villanueva and his competitor Robert Luna, the sheriff referenced that broken relationship. 

"When the Board of Supervisors recruit eight candidates to run against me, they did it for one reason only, because they want a puppet," he said, pointing in Luna's direction. 

Now, after a years-long battle in court against the supervisors, who said that Villanueva did not have the authority to reinstate Mandoyan, the Court of appeals issued their ruling, siding with the county. 

In the appeal documents released after the ruling, the Court of Appeal stated "...defendants contend...Mandoyan was eligible for rehire as a deputy sheriff. We disagree with those contentions and affirm the judgment of the trial court."

Loyola University law professor Jessica Levinson discussed the case on Thursday. 

"When people first started reading about the sheriff and his scandals, it was because he wanted to hire somebody back because he was fired for cause," she said.

Villanueva offered Mandoyan $200,000 in backpay in exchange for his dropping a lawsuit against Los Angeles County, something that was not approved by the county, prompting supervisors to take Villanueva to court.

 "What the appellate court did today completely shut down Sheriff Villanueva and his legal theories. They said that he could not enter into this amended settlement agreement without a blessing from County Counsel. They also said he was without authority to try and rehire this deputy," Levinson said.

Los Angeles County Counsel issued a statement following the ruling, which read in part: "The appellate court... making it abundantly clear that the sheriff - like all county officials - must act in conformity with the law."

Sheriff Villanueva was unavailable for comment when CBS reached out Thursday evening. 

Robert Luna, however, did release a statement that said, "The ruling is further proof that county has a rogue sheriff."

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