In­dus­try’s new coun­cil fires city at­tor­ney

Los Angeles Times - - LOS ANGELES - By Frank Shy­ong frank.shy­ong@la­ Times staff writer Paloma Esquivel con­trib­uted to this re­port.

Dur­ing two quick closed ses­sions Wed­nes­day, the City of In­dus­try’s new coun­cil ma­jor­ity fired a city at­tor­ney who had led a law­suit against the pow­er­ful Perez fam­ily and its busi­nesses, then hired a law firm that once rep­re­sented the city of Bell.

Casso & Sparks, which has also rep­re­sented the cities of La Puente and South El Monte, will serve as the pri­mary legal coun­sel for the city and its en­ti­ties.

The move comes a day af­ter the City Coun­cil voted to re­peal part of a new or­di­nance that pro­tected the city at­tor­ney and other city em­ploy­ees from los­ing their jobs for at least 180 days af­ter a new coun­cil is elected.

The or­di­nance still protects the city clerk, city trea­surer and City Manager Kevin Radecki, but that could change, Radecki be­lieves.

“They’re go­ing to try some­thing,” said Radecki, who has ac­cused the new coun­cil of rep­re­sent­ing Perez busi­ness in­ter­ests.

Coun­cil mem­bers Newell Rug­gles, Mark D. Radecki — the city manager’s brother — and Cory C. Moss, who ran as a slate backed by the Perez fam­ily in the June 2 elec­tion, voted in fa­vor of both ac­tions Wed­nes­day, with Coun­cil­man Jeff Par­riott op­posed. Coun­cil­man Roy Haber III was ab­sent.

James Casso, the new city at­tor­ney, was Bell’s in­terim city at­tor­ney dur­ing that city’s cor­rup­tion scan­dal. The coun­cil chose Casso and his firm be­cause of his ex­pe­ri­ence work­ing with the Los An­ge­les County dis­trict at­tor­ney’s of­fice, Rug­gles said.

The D.A. and the state con­troller have launched in­ves­ti­ga­tions into In­dus­try’s con­tracts with Perez-owned com­pa­nies af­ter au­di­tors found those com­pa­nies had reaped $326 mil­lion from city con­tracts.

Rug­gles said Michele Vadon was fired as city at­tor­ney be­cause she was not a good watch­dog for the city’s fi­nances. “The city at­tor­ney should have been watch­ing over those con­tracts and billing more thor­oughly,” he said.

Charles Slyn­gstad, an at­tor­ney with Vadon’s firm, said it’s not the city at­tor­ney’s job to watch fi­nances.

“We re­gret their de­ci­sion, and it’s been a priv­i­lege to rep­re­sent the law­ful in­ter­ests of the City of In­dus­try,” Slyn­gstad said.

Vadon had been In­dus­try’s city at­tor­ney since 1998. Ear­lier this week, Perez at­tor­neys filed a mo­tion to dis­qual­ify her from the city’s law­suit against the Perezes, claim­ing Vadon filed the suit to pro­tect her own fi­nan­cial in­ter­ests. She and her firm, Burke, Wil­liams & Sorensen, re­ceived nearly $10 mil­lion in legal fees from the city over the last five years, ac­cord­ing to the mo­tion.

Casso said the city hadn’t de­cided whether to keep pur­su­ing the law­suit.

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