LONG BEACH — Councilman Edd Tuttle said he intends to ask for City Council permission next Tuesday to hire his girlfriend as his legislative assistant.
City attorneys this week told Tuttle he could hire Nancy Singel, a former campaign worker, as long as they don't live together.
In an interview, Tuttle said he and Singel had lived together for several months but established different residences as of July 31 in order to comply with the City Charter, which forbids city officials from hiring a person "who regularly cohabits with or uses the domicile of" an official.
If the council gives the hiring its blessing next Tuesday, Singel would go on the city payroll that day, Tuttle said. The salary for legislative assistants ranges from $24,108 to $29,448 a year.
On Tuesday, Tuttle discussed the hiring of Singel with the council during a half-hour closed-door session. Mayor Ernie Kell said the council saw no problem with the hiring as long as it was deemed permissible by the city attorney.
John Calhoun, assistant city attorney, said Tuttle was within the charter. "If they maintain separate residences, there is no prohibition on hiring her," he said.
Calhoun said that it would be difficult for city officials to prove otherwise. "We'd practically have to go into a full-scale shadowing technique to prove that someone is cohabitating," he said.
Although the City Charter says hiring of legislative assistants must be approved by the full council, it has been an "unwritten policy" of the council not to question a colleague's decision, Kell said.
"The feeling is that we have only one person we can hire or fire, and that's our legislative aide," Kell said. "I'd personally hate to have other council members determine who my assistant is."
The remaining catch may be with Singel herself. Tuttle said Singel has been "torn apart" by comments made in letters from residents in a local newspaper and may decide to not take the job. Singel refused to comment.
"I'm going to encourage her to take it, but if she feels it's going to be a continual problem, she may not," Tuttle said. "If it creates problems for her, the personal relationship will come first. No paycheck from City Hall is worth one's personal happiness."
Although Tuttle, 38, acknowledged that his intention to hire Singel had drawn complaints of nepotism from some residents in his district, he defended the move, comparing it to former President John Kennedy appointing his brother, Robert, attorney general.
Tuttle said he wants to hire Singel because she is "extremely capable." Singel has a master's degree in psychology from USC and has been active with the League of Woman Voters, Tuttle said.
"There's this general perception that I'm hiring a girlfriend who is a blonde and can't type," Tuttle said. "That's not the case here. She is very capable."
Tuttle said he could not determine "what the public perception" of the hiring will ultimately be but acknowledged it could pose political problems in the future. Tuttle, who works part time in a family-owned camera store and teaches photography part time at Compton College, comes up for relection in 1988.
"If she does an effective job for the people and keeps the constituents happy, then having her here will be more of an asset than a liability," he said.
Singel has worked for the councilman on a voluntary basis in recent months and on July 29 began filling in full time after Anneta Horner, Tuttle's former aide, took a job with a Washington-based consulting firm, Tuttle said.
The councilman said Singel will not be paid for any of that work and no salary has yet been set.
"When she comes on, there will be a great deal of public scrutiny," he said. "I'll be inclined to negotiate the best deal I can get. I can guarantee it will not be at the top of the pay scale."
In 1980, Tuttle married a previous assistant, Delrey Smith, and was advised by the city attorney that his new wife could not continue in her job.
Tuttle said he and his wife were separated last year and are in the midst of a divorce.
Singel filed for divorce from her husband in April, 1984. David Singel later was arrested and charged with arson in a fire in August, 1984, at a residence Tuttle and Nancy Singel were sharing. The husband was acquitted of the charges during a jury trial.
Tuttle said he has always worked best "with people I've had personal relationships with" and said he felt he and Singel would make a good team.