Miller Barondess Obtains Dismissal of Retaliation Lawsuit Filed by Fired L.A. County Deputy

By Alene Tchekmedyian (L.A. Times)—November 1, 2019—A federal judge has dismissed a retaliation lawsuit brought by a former Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy whose reinstatement sparked a battle between the sheriff and the Board of Supervisors.

Caren Carl Mandoyan sued L.A. County in April, alleging that his support for newly elected Sheriff Alex Villanueva and former sheriff candidate Jim Hellmold in the 2014 election had made him a target of retaliation. He claimed that county leaders withheld his pay and are unfairly trying to push him out of the department.

In a 10-page order Thursday, U.S. District Judge John F. Walter wrote that Mandoyan’s claims were already litigated before the Civil Service Commission, which upheld his termination, and are beyond the statute of limitations. The judge also wrote that Mandoyan’s argument that he was retaliated against because of his support for Villanueva failed because, at the time of the election his termination had been upheld and he had “no legal right” to work for the Sheriff’s Department.

Louis “Skip” Miller, an attorney representing the county and the Board of Supervisors, said he was pleased with the decision.

“Frankly we’d like him and all of this litigation to go away. But he and the sheriff don’t seem to want to let go,” Miller said of Mandoyan. “It’s a shame that Sheriff Villanueva and Mandoyan are forcing all this litigation to go forward. I just think it’s a waste. They’ve lost everything. I just think they should pack it up and go home.”

Mandoyan’s attorney could not immediately be reached for comment.

Mandoyan was fired in 2016 by then-Sheriff Jim McDonnell after a fellow deputy alleged Mandoyan grabbed her by the neck, tried to break into her home and sent her harassing text messages. Prosecutors investigated the woman’s claims and looked at video evidence in the case but declined to charge Mandoyan with intimate-partner violence.

Mandoyan denied any wrongdoing.

Villanueva reinstated the deputy, who volunteered on his campaign, in his first weeks as sheriff after defeating McDonnell in what many viewed as a stunning upset. The new sheriff argued that Mandoyan’s firing was the result of a flawed disciplinary process.

The supervisors sued to reverse the reinstatement, saying it was unlawful.

In August, a judge overturned Villanueva’s decision to reinstate Mandoyan and directed him to return county property, including his gun and badge, pending a trial.

Villanueva has clashed with Los Angeles County supervisors since taking office over hires they consider questionable and his attempts to pull back on deputy discipline reforms imposed in the wake of a jail abuse scandal that brought down longtime Sheriff Lee Baca and other top leaders in the department in recent years.