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Ex-Sheriff Villanueva sues Los Angeles County over placement on 'Do Not Rehire' list

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Alex Villanueva, former sheriff of Los Angeles County, sued the county Thursday saying he was placed on a "do not rehire" list and investigated for harassment without having the chance to respond to the allegations. 

The lawsuit filed in federal court lists accusations of defamation, civil rights violations, and intentional infliction of emotional distress, alleging the county investigated claims against Villanueva without notifying him and allowing due process. An oversight panel launched a probe into harassment and retaliation complaints related to comments the ex-sheriff made about Inspector General Max Huntsman as well as into allegations he targeted and harassed women of color.

Along with the county, the lawsuit also names the county's Board of Supervisors, Sheriff's Department, and Office of the Inspector General (OIG) as defendants, among others. 

Los Angeles County responded to CBS Los Angeles with the following statement from county counsel, "LA County denies the allegations made by the former sheriff."

The Board of Supervisors, OIG, and Sheriff's Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment. 

The result of the investigation, Villanueva alleges, was him being placed on a "do not rehire" list barring him from other jobs with the county. He has alleged the actions taken by the county are politically motivated.

Carney Shegerian, Villanueva's attorney, said the lawsuit aims to have the "no rehire" notation removed from the former sheriff's record and seeks $25 million compensation for alleged damage to his reputation. 

According to the Los Angeles Times, the oversight panel recommended Villanueva be deemed ineligible for being rehired after it found the former sheriff discriminated against Inspector General Huntsman. Citing an initial complaint filed in March 2022, the Times reported Huntsman accused Villanueva of using the inspector general's birth name, Max-Gustaf, as an act of "dog-whistling to the extremists he caters to." 

A few weeks later, Villanueva publicly accused Huntsman of being a Holocaust denier -- purportedly without any evidence. 

Villanueva was also accused of targeting and harassing women of color in a complaint filed by a justice deputy for county Supervisor Hilda Solis. After looking over both cases, the county's Equity Oversight Panel recommended Villanueva be deemed ineligible for rehiring.

By that time, the ex-sheriff had already lost his re-election bid. In addition, Villanueva lost the March 5 primary election against Fourth District incumbent Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn. 

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