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Planning Director Suspended, May Face Prosecution

February 13, 1986|GEORGE STEIN | Times Staff Writer

HAWTHORNE — Planning Director Jim A. Marquez has been suspended with pay and faces a Feb. 18 hearing on a recommendation that he be fired, City Manager Kenneth Jue said this week.

Jue said the recommendation to fire Marquez, made by Chief of General Services James Mitsch, was based on a report prepared by the city attorney and investigators from the Hawthorne Police Department.

Los Angeles County Deputy Dist. Atty. Herbert Lapin said the report and supporting evidence that was sent to his office by the Hawthorne city attorney appears to support criminal misdemeanor charges. Lapin said that his Special Investigations Division, which examines allegations of wrongdoing by public officials, is consulting with Hawthorne to decide whether the city or the district attorney will prosecute.

Focus on Allegations

Jue said that the closed-door termination hearing before the city manager will focus on allegations raised in the report. Although he would not discuss the report in detail, Jue said it dealt with two separate allegations:

- Charges that Marquez was involved in a conflict of interest when he pushed for enactment of a parking ordinance that removed an obstacle to construction of a $717,000, 15-unit apartment on land owned by his wife and brother-in-law.

Officials who recommended and enacted the ordinance have said Marquez did not inform them that he would reap any financial interest from its passage.

- Charges that Marquez failed to report to the city clerk's office income for design work he performed on his own time for projects within the city of Hawthorne.

Marquez, reached by telephone on Wednesday, refused to answer a reporter's questions. "I am not answering any questions and I have no comment. Thank you," he said, and hung up the phone.

Marquez, 35, became planning director in 1981 after six years with the city and now earns $52,000 a year. Mitsch said that he will supervise the planning department until he selects an acting director.

Parking Ordinance

The city began investigating Marquez after The Times questioned officials about his role in the passage of the parking ordinance, which was adopted June 11, 1984.

Without passage of the ordinance, which permitted narrower parking spaces, Marquez, who was acting as project manager, would have had to scale down the apartment building from 15 to 10 units, according to city officials.

Marquez had submitted construction plans, which were rejected by the city early in 1984 because they did not meet requirements for parking. About that time, Marquez suggested making parking spaces narrower and recommended passage of a parking ordinance that included that provision, according to city records, interviews with present and former city officials and tape recordings of Planning Commission meetings.

State law requires that officials who stand to benefit from a government action declare their interest and refrain from participating in making the decision. Violation is a misdemeanor punishable by a maximum penalty of six months in jail or a $1,000 fine or both.

Income Reports

State law also requires that officials like Marquez make annual reports on income that they receive from sources other than their city jobs.

Economic interest statements filed by Marquez with the city clerk say that he received no income outside his city salary after Jan. 1, 1980. (Before that, Marquez's statements say that he had received income for unspecified planning and design services in 1976, 1978 and 1979.)

The wife of a city employee told The Times that city investigators interviewed her and her husband about Marquez's role in designing an $8,000 addition they built onto their Hawthorne home in 1982. No architect's name appears on plans on file with the city.

However, Jeanie Pettlon said in an interview that Marquez drew the plans, which were approved in September, 1982. She said Marquez was paid $500 in cash. "That is the way he wanted it," she said.

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