Tuesday, August 7, 2018
Court of Appeal:
Robles Must Pay for His Legal Defense In Action by D.A.’s Office
Holds That Water District From Which He Was Expelled by Court Need Not Indemnify Carson Mayor’s Legal Battle to Hold Retain Two Incompatible Posts
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The Court of Appeal for this district has held that Carson Mayor Albert Robles must pay his own legal fees for his failed defense against the Los Angeles County District Attorney Office’s action to strip him of membership on the Water Replenishment District of Southern California Board of Directors based on the holding of both offices being incompatible.
In an unpublished opinion by Justice Carl H. Moor, filed Friday, Div. Five affirmed the order by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Amy D. Hogue denying Robles’ petition for a writ of mandate to compel the district to indemnify him in an action brought under Government Code §1099, which says:
“A public officer, including, but not limited to, an appointed or elected member of a governmental board, commission, committee, or other body, shall not simultaneously hold two public offices that are incompatible.…”
Robles was elected to the Water Replenishment District (“WRD”) board in 1992 and to the Carson City Council in 2013. The Office of District Attorney spotted in 2014 an incompatibility with respect to Robles’s holding of a directorship on the WRD board and on the City Council—which the latter body attempted to remedy in December 2014 by voting 4-0 to authorize Robles to continue to hold both posts.
In 2015, the City Council appointed Robles to his present city post after Mayor Jim Dear stepped down to become city clerk.
Albert Robles is seen in a 2016 ad in his successful campaign for election to the post of mayor of Carson to which he was appointed by the City Council in 2015 to fill out an unexpired term. The Court of Appeal on Friday rejected his contention that the Water Replenishment District of Southern California was obliged to pay for his unsuccessful defense in resisting efforts of the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office to expel him from the district’s Board of Directors.
Quo Warranto Action
After obtaining consent of then-Attorney General Kamala Harris, the Office of District Attorney Jackie Lacey brought an action in quo warranto against Robles on Jan. 25, 2016. The complaint alleged that the two offices are “incompatible under Government Code section 1099 because the [district] and the City of Carson have overlapping territory, duties and responsibilities, and a clash of duties is likely to arise in the exercise of both offices simultaneously.”
Robles immediately called upon the district to indemnify the costs of legal representation. It initially agreed to do so—then decided against it, and Robles sought a writ of mandate ordering indemnification.
Hogue denied writ relief on April 21, 2017.
A judgment removing Robles from the water board, fining him $5,000, and awarding costs was signed last May 24 by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge James Chalfant. Robles, in pro per, filed a notice of appeal on June 15.
Government Code §995
At issue in the appeal from Hogue’s order is whether the district was obliged to provide a defense under Government Code §995 which provides:
“Except as otherwise provided in Sections 995.2…, upon request of an employee or former employee, a public entity shall provide for the defense of any civil action or proceeding brought against him, in his official or individual capacity or both, on account of an act or omission in the scope of his employment as an employee of the public entity.”
Section 995.2(a) provides that a defense may be denied an employee where “[t]he act or omission was not within the scope of his or her employment.”
“In this case, the trial court correctly determined that the act at issue in the underlying lawsuit was Robles’s assumption of office for the City of Carson. Robles’s act in assuming a position with the City of Carson clearly was not within the course and scope of his employment with the district, and therefore the district was entitled to refuse to provide for his defense.”
The case is Robles v. Water Replenishment District of Southern California, B283258.
Anthony Willoughby of Culver City represented Robles. Gregory P. Barbee and Laura A. Alexander of Sheppard Mullin, Richter & Hampton’s Los Angeles office argued for the district.
Robles gained public notice in 2008 when he waged an election challenge to then-Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley, receiving 20 percent of the vote. Robles was upset over being prosecuted by Cooley’s office over alleged Election Code irregularities in the distribution of political mailers (which a jury later acquitting him of the charged misdemeanors).
In 2015, the Los Angeles Times ran an article calling into question whether he actually lived at his parents’ home in Carson, or at a house in the City of Los Angeles with his wife and children.
In 2016, he paid $12,000 in fines to settle allegations that he had failed to disclose his personal and campaign finances.
Copyright 2018, Metropolitan News Company