Thursday, April 18, 2002
Council Was Not Fully Informed of Legal Risks Before Voting Not to Take Over Parks Matter, Allred Says
By KIMBERLY EDDS, Staff Writer
The City Council was not fully informed of the legal risks facing the city when it slammed the door on the LAPD Chief Bernard Parks’ hopes of being reappointed to a second term, Parks’ attorney Gloria Allred said yesterday.
The council voted 11-3 not to assert jurisdiction over the Police Commission’s decision without being fully informed of the legal risks facing the city.
Allred sent a “detailed letter” to the City Attorney’s Office before the council meeting which she said laid out the numerous laws that may have been violated by the city in the reappointment process. In the letter Allred said she asked City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo to advise the council to conduct an investigation into the process and into the legal claims Parks may have against the city.
At yesterday’s council session Deputy City Attorney Patricia Tubert did not broach the subject of Allred’s letter and several council members said they did not know of the letter or its contents.
“To the best of our knowledge the council was not advised of the legal risks facing the city,” Allred said.
Allred said while Delgadillo did acknowledge receiving the letter, as of late yesterday afternoon he had not yet responded.
“We think an investigation should have been conducted before the City Council voted and took the precipitous, ill-advised and unwarranted action they took,” Allred said.
Mary McGuire, a Delgadillo spokesman, said the office had received the letter and was in the process of reviewing it.
Parks is considering all his options at this point, including taking the city to court, Allred said, acknowledging that any hopes Parks had of being reappointed through the city process came to an end with yesterday’s vote.
“The chief will consider his options and then decide which ones he wants to exercise,” Allred said.
Melanie Lomax, who represented former LAPD Chief Willie Williams in his unsuccessful bid for reappointment in 1997, said that with all of his governmental options exhausted Parks must now turn to the courts.
“The only option he has is to bring some sort of legal action to challenge that his due process rights were violated or to clear his name,” Lomax, a former Police Commission president, said.
Lomax said Parks’ stronger legal argument is to rest on his claim that members of the Police Commission defamed him by claiming publicly that he was dishonest in the reappointment process. But Lomax said she believes Allred will bring a suit claiming both defamation and a violation of due process.
“The commission may have created some legal benefit for Parks by accusing him of design,” Lomax said.
Parks’ presentation to the council Tuesday could both help and hurt him if he does decide to sue, Lomax said.
Parks “cited clear evidence that he was denied due process,” but he went out on a limb by charging the mayor, the Police Commission, and the Police Protective League of conspiring against him, allegations which may come back to haunt him later, she said.
Lomax also said she believes Parks’ rights given to him by the Police Officer’s Bill of Rights were violated by the commission which accused him of being dishonest, but did not inform him beforehand and did not give him an opportunity to respond.
Allred called the reappointment process “tainted” and accused Mayor James Hahn of adding to the fraud by announcing his decision not to support Parks even before the Police Commission had released the criteria it said would be used to evaluate the chief’s performance.
“I believe the City Council has decided not to reappoint the best chief this city has ever had,” Allred said. “I think they should be ashamed of themselves.”
Councilman Nate Holden, one of just three members who voted to assert jurisdiction, said the council’s failure to do so and act as a “fact-finder” to get to the bottom of the issue could prove costly to the city.
“The consequence of the council’s action is putting the city at liability by refusing to take jurisdiction of the Police Commission’s decision,” Holden said.
Holden said he spoke with the chief after the council’s vote and advised the chief to sue the city.
But Hahn said hauling the issue into court would only further hamper efforts to increase police protection in the city.
“I think lawyers and lawsuits are not the way we make this city safer,” Hahn said.
Hahn said he was “glad that this chapter is closed and we can look forward.”
After hearing nearly 45 minutes of public comment from people on both sides of the issue, the council briefly debated whether to assert jurisdiction, with just three members speaking.
Holden urged the council to “take jurisdiction for the purpose of investigating and fact-finding and determining whether or not his rights were violated” but not necessarily to overturn the commission’s decision.
Councilman Jack Weiss squared off against Holden, arguing that the chief, like other public officials, was not automatically entitled to a second term.
“We may earn it...but none of us has a right to it,” Weiss said.
Councilwoman Cindy Miscikowski read to the council from the City Charter, which states the police chief shall serve a five year term and may be reappointed. Miscikowski emphasized the chief “shall not attain any property interest” in his job-language added by Proposition F in 1992 on the recommendation of the Christopher Commission—and argued the council has “no other obligation than to look at the process.”
The lack of a “property interest” means that Parks has no Civil Service protection and likely means that he is not entitled to due process in his application for reappointment.
Parks was scheduled to appear on KFWB’s monthly radio show “Ask the Chief,” this morning, but cancelled his appearance, a department spokesman said. Parks has also cancelled all his public events for the rest of the week, Officer Jack Richter said.
The chief did not return calls for comment.
Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company