REDONDO BEACH — Mayor Barbara Doerr and the City Council last week informally agreed that their longstanding feud over the mayor's power to make appointments to city commissions should be placed on the ballot in June for clarification by the voters.
Doerr and the council have been arguing since last summer over who has the power--the mayor or City Council--to make appointments to commissions after an incumbent commissioner's term has been expired for 60 days.
Over the objections of Doerr and City Atty. Gordon Phillips, the council adopted a policy last summer that allows it to make appointments if the mayor has not named a new commissioner 60 days after a term expires.
While no formal vote was taken, the council and mayor agreed that the issue should be placed on the ballot so voters can decide if the City Charter should be changed to reflect the council's position. Phillips said he has drafted a proposed ballot measure for the council and mayor to review. The council must formally vote to place measures on the ballot by the first week in March.
The council did vote to receive and file an opinion from the Los Angeles district attorney's office about the issue of appointments, but only after several council members and Mayor Doerr sparred once again over why the opinion was sought in the first place.
The opinion cleared the council of any wrongdoing when it made an appointment to the Harbor Commission last summer against the advice of City Atty. Phillips.
Doerr, who asked that the appointment be investigated, had claimed that the council violated the City Charter when it appointed John S. Ferguson Jr. to the commission. Doerr, quoting from an opinion written by Phillips, argued that only she had the power to make the appointment, but the council insisted that Doerr had given up that power by waiting more than 60 days to name a commissioner.
The district attorney's opinion, written by Deputy Dist. Atty. Herbert Lapin, concurred that the appointment was "in direct contravention" of the Charter, but exonerated the council of any criminal wrongdoing because the council was "acting in good faith." Ferguson remains as a commissioner.
The opinion, which Lapin released to the press in November, was on the council's consent agenda last week to be received and filed. When Doerr attempted to comment on the it, Councilman Archie Snow interrupted the mayor, insisting that the opinion be pulled from the consent agenda if she wanted to talk about it. Consent agenda items are considered--and voted on--at one time by the council.
Doerr refused to pull the item, instead pounding her gavel and chiding Snow for being out of order. Snow, repeating a claim he has made since Doerr first asked the district attorney to become involved in the appointment dispute, characterized Doerr's motives as malicious.
Councilwoman Kay Horrell and Councilman Jack Chapman joined Snow in defending the council, with both of them calling the appointment a courageous act of the council. Horrell said the the council and mayor had become bogged down in a political dispute over the appointment process, and said the council "moved the city's business forward" by appointing Ferguson.