DOWNEY — The City Council Tuesday night abruptly dropped plans for an investigation of new Mayor Bob Davila, but Davila seemed less than satisfied by the council's reversal.
Randy Barb, the council member who last week sought a district attorney's investigation of Davila, told council members Tuesday that he had made a mistake.
"I thought it over and I realized I really wasn't after somebody ending up in jail," Barb said in an interview after the meeting. "I only want council members to work together under the same charter guidelines."
Possible Charter Violation
Barb had charged that Davila may have violated the city charter by interfering with city employees, a misdemeanor under city law punishable by a maximum $500 fine and/or six months in jail.
On Barb's recommendation, the council voted 3 to 1 last week to seek the investigation, with council member James Santangelo voting against the motion, Davila abstaining and Barb, Robert Cormack and Diane Boggs voting in favor. But Tuesday, the council voted 4 to 0, with Davila abstaining, to drop the request for an investigation.
Davila would have none of what he subsequently called a "half-hearted apology," saying during the meeting: "I don't want to get bit twice by the same snake."
In an interview after the meeting, Davila said: "I can't really believe his (Barb's) sincerity. He wears two faces. He can really put on a good act with one and he's got the devil's mask behind that."
Davila, who has been in office three weeks, added that last week's incident was like "an open wound" that would require "some time to heal."
"The damage has already been done. What he (Barb) has done can't be undone by a mere apology," Davila said.
Barb and Cormack also voted last week to remove Davila from office, a bid that died on a 2-2 vote. Of Barb and Cormack, Davila said the call for an investigation was "only their first maneuver. You can bet your bottom dollar on that."
The city's Police Department had already contacted the district attorney's office regarding the requested investigation but Wednesday, police Capt. Jim Shade said he called the district attorney's office and said the city was dropping its request.
Not Familiar With Case
Deputy Dist. Atty. Richard Healey said he had been assigned to the case on Tuesday and was not familiar with it.
The allegations against Davila concern three incidents that Barb said occurred in the past few weeks.
On one occasion, Davila asked Sylvia Garcia, an administrative assistant to the city manager, to translate a letter written to council members in Spanish by John Gonzalez, a resident who has made numerous allegations against city officials in the past.
Barb said that when the letter was circulated to city council members, there was a memo attached from City Manager Don Davis saying that the staff would not take time to translate the letter.
Barb said that he was disturbed that Davila would attempt to overrule Davis by asking Garcia to translate the letter, and then asking Garcia not to tell any other officials about Davila's request. Garcia would not discuss the incident.
Davila, who is the city's first Latino mayor but who does not read Spanish, confirmed that he asked Garcia to translate the letter and not to tell other city officials about it. He said that he never saw Davis' memo, but he was worried that the city would be liable for a discrimination lawsuit if it did not respond to Gonzalez.
Section 608 of the city's charter, titled "non-interference with administrative service," prohibits council members from giving "any orders to any subordinate of the city manager, either publicly or privately." The charter adds that council members are supposed to deal with city employees through the city manager, "except for the purpose of inquiry, investigation or report."
Intervened in Hearing
On another occasion, Davila intervened in a personnel hearing involving a city Planning Department employee and demanded to see the employee's personnel file, Barb said.
Davila replied that under the charter, he had every right to make an inquiry and to see the employee's personnel file.
A third incident involved Davila's alleged summoning of a public works employee to work on his day off to meet with Davila and a newspaper reporter to discuss concerns raised by the mayor, Barb said Wednesday.
Davila could not be reached for comment on that allegation.
Barb, who served as mayor before Davila, said the mayor should function as a figurehead, presiding at ceremonies and running council meetings, and not directing city employees.
Council Swing Vote
Boggs, who has become the council member's swing vote on many matters, and who sided with Cormack and Barb in requesting the investigation of Davila, said in an interview that she may vote to remove Davila from office as mayor in the future, if he continues to direct city employees.
She abstained on the vote to oustDavila last week.
"I would be ready to remove him (Davila) from office if he doesn't stay within the scope of his role as mayor," Boggs said, adding that in her opinion, Davila in his three weeks as mayor "was addressing city employees not through proper channels."