At the first Las Virgenes-Malibu Council of Governments (COG) meeting since Salvador “Chuck” Becerra was named captain of the Malibu/Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station in an “emergency appointment” earlier this month, Malibu was voted down in its attempt to express formal discontentment with the governance of the station.
Early Tuesday, June 16, Malibu lost an effort to have four sister cities in western LA County jointly protest the sheriff’s broken promises on local civilian control of the sheriff’s station.
For the past several months, all five COG cities—Malibu, Calabasas, Agoura Hills, Westlake Village and Hidden Hills— have been unhappy about the revolving door of local police leadership.
And city mayors and city managers have been cut out of the selection process for the captaincy at the Malibu-Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station, which acts as the city police for Malibu, four other cities and the unincorporated chunk of western LA County.
COG Executive Director Terry Dipple said at Tuesday’s meeting that the sheriff had made commitments to the cities that were not fulfilled.
“As you recall the COG looked at—we had some meetings with Sheriff Villanueva in the past,” Dipple said. “Recently, Captain Becerra was appointed by the sheriff as the commander of the Lost Hills-Malibu Sheriff’s Station. And the process which was previously agreed to was not followed because of the emergency situation with COVID and the protests.”
But now is not the time to rock the boat, according to the mayors of Calabasas, Westlake Village and Hidden Hills, who said the recent upheavals means now is the time to be quiet.
“The sheriff that we currently have in office has indicated two times that he’s not going to abide by this agreement. This is the situation that’s ongoing ... and this is an elected official that has decided it’s not going to be part of his agenda,” Westlake Village Mayor Kelly Honig said Tuesday. “I’m not interested in aggravating this problem any further.”
The Westlake Village mayor said Villanueva controls how many deputies are on the streets of her city and she doesn’t want to aggravate him.
Her views were echoed by the leaders of Calabasas—but not by Agoura Hills Mayor Illece Buckley Weber.
“We like Captain Becerra, too, and this is nothing against the captain. But it’s important to make a record,” Weber said. “Sheriff Villanueva told us what he was going to do. He made promises that we were going to be part of the interview process and then completely disregarded it. Not only that—we didn’t even get a formal letter until it was all over the news. That’s not good communications. That’s not OK.”
Malibu Mayor Karen Farrer reiterated that she was unhappy with the sheriff’s actions, not those of the new captain.
“What this is about is the bypassing the agreed-upon process,” Ferrer said. “And that process was agreed on with this particular group twice recently, and then was ignored.”
Farrer said the sheriff had told the mayors that it was an emergency, but she knows of no emergency powers clause that allows the sheriff to violate an agreement he made with the cities.
And Weber added that the appointment was made after the riots and protests had largely subsided.
In the end, the regional council of governments left it up to Agoura Hills and Malibu to pursue this on their own.
A version of this story previously ran on KBUU News.
Editor's note: A previous version of this story misspelled COG Executive Director Terry Dipple's name. The story has been corrected.