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Rumor Was True: Cunningham Quits Council

September 13, 1986|VICTOR MERINA | Times Staff Writer

After days of speculation about his rumored departure, Los Angeles City Councilman Dave Cunningham abruptly submitted his resignation Friday to Council President Pat Russell and said he would leave office by the end of the month.

In a letter to Russell, the 51-year-old Cunningham said he was resigning the 10th District seat he has held since 1973 to "pursue life as a private citizen." He did not indicate what he would be doing after resigning.

Copies of the resignation letter were distributed to reporters by Cunningham's press deputy, Cheryle Grace. But Grace said Cunningham, who had staunchly refused to comment on reports that he was about to resign, had already left City Hall and was not available to elaborate on the terse announcement.

Later, however, Cunningham appeared on a television news program and said he was resigning because 13 years of service was "enough."

He told KTTV Channel 11 news, "I plan to wait and find out from a number of different concerns on Wall Street what the interest is in Dave Cunningham."

He said he would await their offers and make the best deal he could.

Russell was unavailable for comment, but her press secretary said Cunningham submitted his resignation Friday afternoon, only hours after the City Council had voted to override Mayor Tom Bradley's veto of a new redistricting plan.

Cunningham, who voted with the majority, had reportedly been waiting to announce his resignation until after the council finalized the controversial redistricting plan, according to sources at City Hall and in his Southwest Los Angeles district.

Cunningham had reportedly decided last month to leave the council but was urged by friends and political allies not to make his intentions known until a redistricting plan was adopted in order to assure that council members did not tamper with his 10th District boundaries.

In his letter to Russell, Cunningham alluded to his fellow members by saying that he had been "privileged to serve with an interesting group of dedicated, committed and sometimes overly contentious colleagues."

Cunningham went on to say that "it was never my intent nor is it my intention now to spend the bulk of my productive life as a member of the Los Angeles City Council. . . . It is my intent to vacate the office of the 10th Council District and pursue life as a private citizen."

He added that he would leave office by Sept. 30.

Sources had said earlier that Cunningham will join the investment banking firm of Cranston Securities at a salary that may triple his $53,266 annual pay as a councilman.

However, Cunningham indicated to Channel 11 reporters that Cranston Securities was just one of a number of firms in which he may be interested.

A top executive of the Ohio-based firm said Cranston had not offered Cunningham a job but would be happy to talk with him after he resigned.

As head of the council's Grants, Housing and Community Development Committee, Cunningham is one of the major players in awarding municipal bond contracts and one of the most experienced city officials in bond financing--an area that Cranston Securities is aggressively pursuing.

Grace said Cunningham told her that he has not yet decided what he would do in the future. "The councilman said he is going to consider his options, take a look around . . . and make the best decision for his family and himself," she said.

Asked if he would be joining Cranston Securities, Grace said: "He said he hasn't made that choice now but is going to consider all his options."

Decisions Due

The council, normally composed of 15 members, already has a vacancy because of the death last month of Councilman Howard Finn. For both vacancies, members now must choose whether to leave the seats open until the city elections next April, call a special election or appoint replacements for Finn and Cunningham.

The 10th District encompasses a mixture of ethnic groups, including Asian and Latinos. However, under the new redistricting plan--which Cunningham supported--blacks make up 44% of the district's 200,000 residents.

A number of names have surfaced as possible candidates to succeed Cunningham, including Marguerite Archie-Hudson, a member of the Los Angeles Community College Board of Trustees; Homer Broome Jr., vice president of the Board of Public Works; the Rev. H. H. Brookins, a clergyman who has guided the political careers of Cunningham and other prominent black politicians, and Myrlie Evers, widow of slain civil rights leader Medgar Evers.

Other Possibilities

Also mentioned as possible candidates are Lois Hill Hale, an aide to Sen. Diane Watson (D-Los Angeles); former state Sen. Nate Holden; community activist Eunice Renee Russell, and school board President Rita Walters.

Others include businessmen Skip Cooper and Coy Sallis, Watts Summer Festival organizer Truman Jacques, and Cunningham deputies Greg Irish and Dennis Nishikawa.

Mayor Tom Bradley, who held the 10th District seat before becoming mayor, said Friday: "I'm not sure what Dave's plans are, but I wish him well." He said he hoped a "cross-section of leadership" in the district would find a "consensus candidate" to succeed Cunningham.

In his resignation letter, Cunningham told Russell that he would like her personal attention in overseeing the 10th District during the vacancy and asked her to watch over some ordinances that he has proposed that would require developers to provide child-care space or pay fees in lieu of space for a child-care facility. That issue is awaiting a hearing before the Planning Commission, and Cunningham said he would still be available to testify or attend those hearings.

In closing, Cunningham told Russell that "someone once said it is better to leave too soon than to stay too late, but I truly believe it is better to leave beloved as opposed to belated."

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