Thursday, December 20, 2001
Council Allows Delgadillo to Hire Seven New Staff Members To Handle Suits Stemming From Democratic Convention
By NICK YULICO, Staff Writer
The City Council yesterday unanimously authorized City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo to hire seven new staff members to handle lawsuits filed against the city pertaining to incidents at last year’s Democratic National Convention.
Three of the new employees will be attorneys.
Chief Deputy City Attorney Terree Bowers said the new staff will be more cost—efficient than using outside litigators in these cases.
“This is existing litigation,” Bowers said. “It’s like that radiator commercial on television. Either pay now or pay later.”
Three attorneys handling a full load of other cases are currently assigned the convention lawsuits. Their hands are tied with the comprehensive discovery and extensive witness depositions in the lawsuits, Bowers said.
Eleven lawsuits are still pending against the city relating to convention incidents. One settlement last month awarded $60,000 to journalists claiming the police injured them and destroyed their equipment when they shot them with rubber bullets and clubbed them.
Funding for the positions was not approved by council, and the City Attorney’s Office will report back to council in six months. If the City Attorney’s Office goes over budget, which is likely according to budget estimates, the $403,228 requested by Delgadillo may be taken from the city’s General Fund.
The City Attorney’s Office has stated that outside counsel expenditure for the cases would be around $1 million to $1.5 million for the first year and $1 million for the second year.
The City Administrative Office last week recommended that the new hires be limited to two attorneys and one paralegal, which would have cost $142,568 for six months. They were critical of approving money for all seven positions because of the city’s hiring freeze and the request by Mayor James Hahn that all departments cut their budgets by 10 per cent.
Bowers said the new DNC team would assume responsibilities for complex litigation arising from other cases involving the Police Department, like the Rampart lawsuits, once the DNC cases are completed. The new staff attorneys and support members will remain on the DNC cases until the end, when they’ll most likely permanently join the staff, since around 20 attorneys leave the office each year.
Bowers said hiring outside litigation as staff and then training them in-house on the specifics of lawsuits against the city is an innovative approach that will benefit the city in the long-run.
The personnel will probably be associates that the city would have consulted as outside litigators anyway, Bowers said. Many attorneys have expressed a desire to work in the office due to the recent downturn in the economy and the incidents of Sept. 11, Bowers said.
Their office is currently reviewing hundreds of applications but expect to have the positions filled by mid-January.
“This is a beginning to build the sort of expertise with front-line lawyers that will save the city money down the line,” Councilman Eric Garcetti said.
Bowers also cautioned outside firms not to worry about the city not needing them anymore. The City Attorney’s Office will still need them for “huge cases” and those involving conflicts of interest, he explained.
Copyright 2001, Metropolitan News Company