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City Atty. to Hire Lawyers on Divestiture

January 09, 1986|From a Times Staff Writer

Los Angeles City Atty. James K. Hahn said Wednesday that the hiring of private attorneys to help the Los Angeles Board of Police and Fire Commissioners rid its pension fund of South Africa-related investments will be conducted by his office and not the pension board.

In issuing his legal opinion, Hahn said the pension commissioners lack the authority to retain an outside law firm, as recommended by their divestiture plan. Any private lawyers would have to be retained by the city attorney's office, Hahn said.

But the administrator of the city's largest pension fund told The Times on Wednesday that the city attorney's position could delay the process of purging the $2-billion fund of investments in firms that do business in South Africa.

If the city attorney determines that the commission does not need outside counsel, or selects a firm that the commission does not approve, then "the board would have to reconsider the divestiture plan or modify it," said Gary Mattingly, general manager of the Department of Pensions.

Fire and police commissioners voted last August to gradually purge more than $400 million in investments in firms that do business in South Africa because of that country's apartheid policy of racial segregation.

Under its plan, the board will divest funds over a five-year period and, to ensure that there is no financial loss, will reassess its program at various steps along the way, with the help of independent attorneys and financial advisers.

Mattingly said that the board will now ask the city attorney's office to hire those lawyers, and he said the pension commission will pay for the expenses.

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