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Beleaguered Hawthorne Planning Director Resigns

February 16, 1986|GEORGE STEIN | Times Staff Writer

HAWTHORNE — Planning Director Jim A. Marquez resigned Thursday in the face of a recommendation that he be fired because of allegations of conflicts of interest and failure to report off-duty work performed within the city.

The accusations were contained in a report prepared by the city attorney's office and the Hawthorne Police Department that was forwarded to the Los Angeles County district attorney's office on Tuesday. On Wednesday, Deputy Dist. Atty. Herbert Lapin said the report appeared to support criminal misdemeanor prosecution.

By resigning, Marquez stands to receive up to $13,750 in accumulated sick pay that he would have to forgo if he were fired, according to city officials. In addition, City Atty. Michael Adamson said the resignation means that the report will not become a part of Marquez's personnel file.

Marquez's supervisor, Chief of General Services James Mitsch, said that he received a letter of resignation from Marquez on Thursday that said:

"I sincerely thank you and others for the opportunity to have served the city as planning director since 1981 and as associate planner since 1975. However, for personal and professional reasons, I am hereby terminating my employment with the city of Hawthorne effective Thursday the 13th day of February, 1986. Respectfully submitted, Jim A. Marquez."

Reached at his Redondo Beach home, Marquez said, "I am not making any comment."

Marquez's troubles began four weeks ago after The Times questioned city officials about his role in the June 11, 1984, passage of a parking ordinance that removed an obstacle to his plans to construct a $717,000 apartment building on land owned by Marquez's wife and brother-in-law.

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

Officials who recommended and enacted the ordinance have said that Marquez suggested including a provision for narrower parking spaces in the ordinance and lobbied for its passage while keeping them in the dark about his financial stake in its adoption.

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

Investigation Broadened

The city investigation broadened to include allegations that Marquez had done design work in the city but failed to report outside employment or income on his financial statements, according to City Manager Kenneth Jue.

On Feb. 6, the city attorney delivered the report on Marquez to Mitsch. The next day, Mitsch recommended that Jue fire Marquez and suspended the planning director with pay, pending a closed-door termination hearing before the city manager that was to be held on Tuesday.

Mitsch said Thursday that he was particularly upset by an allegation that Marquez had been working on the design of a proposed $2.4-million, 49-unit project on a lot in the 14100 block of Lemoli Avenue in the Moneta Gardens area.

State law requires that officials like Marquez annually report any position they hold outside their city jobs and income that they receive or are promised for off-duty work performed within city limits.

Rein O. Kuhr, owner of the lot on Lemoli Avenue, told The Times that Marquez signed a Dec. 4, 1985, agreement, on behalf of the Kolinas Group, to do design work on the project for $18,000. Kuhr said the agreement acknowledges that he paid the Kolinas Group $6,000 for part of the work.

Part of Report

Mitsch said the signed agreement is part of city attorney's report.

"The Kuhr project, to tell you the truth, that is the one that gives me a bad taste in my mouth," Mitsch said, adding that it was a factor in his decision to recommend firing Marquez.

He said he knew nothing of Marquez's alleged involvement in the Kolinas Group or the Lemoli Avenue project until he read the city attorney's report.

Marquez's economic interest statement for 1985, which is on file at the city clerk's office, does not list any affiliation with the Kolinas Group or the receipt or promise of any income from it.

Robert E. Katherman Jr., president of the Kolinas Group Incorporated, described his organization as "a loose association of friends" involved in design work on construction projects in Southern California. He said Marquez had worked with him on two Kolinas Group projects before the Lemoli Avenue building was proposed.

No Outside Work

In earlier statements covering the period from Jan. 1, 1980, through Dec. 31, 1985, Marquez checked boxes indicating that he held no position outside of his city job and did not receive any outside income or promise of any income.

Mitsch said the Lemoli Avenue project "caused me more problems than anything else" in the report.

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