LAWNDALE — Councilman James Ramsey, who says he has saved the city $700,000 during the nine years he has served on a regional insurance authority, has been replaced on the authority at the suggestion of Mayor Sarann Kruse, his longtime adversary. "This is a political power play," said Ramsey, "and I resent it."
Saying it is "time to give others an opportunity to participate," Kruse, at last week's meeting of the City Council, recommended the appointment of Councilman Harold Hofmann to the Southern California Joint Powers Insurance Authority, which underwrites liability insurance for 44 cities. The council agreed 3 to 2 to appoint Hofmann.
Ramsey, an insurance agent who is chairman of the authority's executive board, said he has done "an extremely good job" in his nine years as the city's delegate.
"It's a large shame that three members of the council--one in particular--are so small-minded that they're willing to sacrifice all of that because of their pettiness," he said.
Kruse and Ramsey, once regarded as allies, have engaged in an escalating political battle since Kruse defeated Ramsey in last April's mayoral race.
"Everything that's been built up in all those years can be wiped out in 30 seconds," Ramsey said during the council meeting. He added that as a mere delegate, Hofmann will be able to participate only in the authority's regular meetings, held once a year.
"If the foundation is as strong as you say," Kruse responded, "it should be able to thrive even with someone else. And if Mr. Hofmann is not a delegate, he can't run for the executive board."
A bid by Councilman Terry Birdsall to renominate Ramsey was defeated 2 to 3. Councilman Dan McKenzie joined Hofmann and Kruse in the successful motion to appoint Hofmann.
Later, Kruse reiterated her stance on delegate rotation: "That's why you appoint new delegates on an annual basis--to give people the opportunity to sit on different boards to get a better knowledge of how they work and affect the city.
"Lots of people have been asking me why Lawndale doesn't rotate as frequently as other cities do."
Ramsey maintained that of the original seven executive board members, four still serve. "That's because most cities want the expertise and the continuum. With other committees there are lots of changes, but this is not a standard operation.
Largest in State
"This is the largest municipal joint powers authority in the state," Ramsey added. "And with 21 years of experience as an insurance professional, I've been able to save the city $20,000 each year, as a well as an additional $50,000 to $60,000 annual rebate."
Kruse countered: "If money is saved, is that one person or the whole committee? Things happen by teamwork--that's good management."
She said the authority "should continue to do well with other people who can offer new perspectives and ideas."
Both Kruse and Ramsey cited other concerns.
"This is not just local politics," Ramsey said, "because it affects not just our city but all other cities in the authority. It doesn't make sense to replace someone with nine years of experience with (the insurance authority), who knows all the ins and outs as president of the entire organization, with an individual whose main comment is, 'I want to know more about it.' "
Kruse acknowledged that she was disturbed to learn that the full authority meets only once a year. She questioned whether it was controlled by the executive board.
"We all need to be educated" about the insurance authority, she said.
Hofmann's term as a delegate--an unpaid position--will begin next month.
The insurance authority is made up of one member from each of the 44 city councils in the Los Angeles region, and members of the authority elect its executive board.