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Suit to Void City Officials' Pay Hike Filed

June 29, 1985|DOROTHY TOWNSEND | Times Staff Writer

A disgruntled Los Angeles property owner filed suit Friday seeking to overturn the 10% pay raise that the City Council gave itself, the mayor and other city officials on June 5 by what the suit called a "secret vote."

In her Los Angeles Superior Court suit, Dorothy Green, who is the head of the Los Angeles chapter of the League of Conservation Voters, claims that the ordinance was slipped through the council surreptitiously, without previous notice or public discussion, in violation of the City Charter and state statute.

"(It) did not appear on the day's agenda. It was referred to in council merely as Item 53. Neither the motion nor the ordinance was read by the clerk (and) there was no discussion about the subject matter the motion contained," papers filed with the suit state.

"The council voted on the motion, passed it unanimously and sent it 'forthwith to the mayor' without any prior or contemporaneous notice to the public," the suit alleged.

Green's suit further contends that "as a result of the lack of prior notice, the lack of availability of the public record and the failure of the clerk to read the ordinance or of the council to in any way identify Item 53, the vote taken was a secret vote."

Superior Court Judge Irving A. Shimer denied Green's request for a temporary restraining order to stop implementation of the salary ordinance before it could become effective Monday, but Shimer did set a hearing for the matter on July 10 in his court.

Senior Assistant City Atty. Frederick Merkin argued successfully against a temporary order, stating that the ordinance does not actually become effective until conclusion of a referendum period of 30 days after its publication, which was June 10.

"We believe that the actions of the council and the mayor were lawful," Merkin told The Times, but he added that, in any event, no money would be disbursed for the salary hikes before July 10.

Green's attorney, Barbara Blinderman, had argued that "the matter of public knowledge of the content of the proceedings of its elected officials is so fundamental that a restraining order to prevent any further secret actions . . . is essential to the city's legislative process.

"The petitioner/plaintiff seeks the aid of this court to prevent the City of Los Angeles from succeeding in its efforts to legitimize secret government."

According to Green's suit, giving the city officials a 10% pay raise is also in violation of a City Charter section that limits yearly increases to 5%.

"Most people jump to the conclusion that my concern is the pay raise," Green told The Times late Friday. "I believe all of our public servants should be paid adequate salaries. My real concern is the process here that was, in essence, a secret meeting."

Green, who lives in West Los Angeles, also is a coordinator of the Working Alliance to Equalize Rates (WATER), a group concerned with statewide water problems.

The suit names the City of Los Angeles, the City Council and the city Controller as defendants.

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