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Huntington Park Wants Office Space Back : D.A. Staff Evicted Amid Squabble

January 25, 1987|RALPH CIPRIANO | Times Staff Writer

HUNTINGTON PARK — The City Council, which has been feuding with Dist. Atty. Ira Reiner, has voted unanimously to evict 16 members of the district attorney's staff from an office in the police station that the district attorney has rented for the past seven years.

The council, acting at the request of Chief Geano Contessotto, decided last week to stop renting offices to the district attorney's staff so the Police Department could use the space for its growing needs.

City officials said the Police Department would take over the district attorney's second-floor offices June 30, when the current two-year lease between the city and county expires. The six separate rooms that make up the offices had been rented for $2,200 a month and were used by 11 deputy district attorneys and supporting personnel.

The feud between city officials and Reiner began Dec. 18 when Reiner announced at a press conference that he would prosecute two former Huntington Park officers for allegedly torturing a 17-year-old city boy with a stun gun.

While Contessotto and council members said last week that they were reclaiming the offices because of the Police Department's urgent need for additional space, Reiner and members of his staff offered a different explanation.

No Warning of Eviction

"We got thrown out," said Denis Petty, the district attorney's director of branch and area operations. Petty said Thursday that neither he nor anyone else in the district attorney's office got any warning before the council vote.

In an interview Wednesday, Reiner said the council's decision will cost city taxpayers money.

"Whatever their (city officials) motives, and some might suggest they are transparent, the fact remains that it does not affect our office. It affects the budget of the Huntington Park Police Department," Reiner said, adding that city taxpayers will now have to pay for increased costs and overtime for officers who will have to travel to meet with the district attorney's staff.

The present district attorney's office in Huntington Park is next to the Huntington Park Municipal Court, which is convenient for police and members of the district attorney's staff, both city and county officials said. The district attorney's staff in Huntington Park serves the municipal courts there and in South Gate, where cases are heard from the cities of Bell, Cudahy, Bell Gardens, Huntington Park, Maywood, South Gate and Vernon.

Computer Space Needed

Contessotto said he requested additional office space because the department has recently added two computers and because the department needs to establish a separate room for holding juveniles.

"We're not throwing them out . . . ," Contessotto said, adding that despite recent differences with Reiner, the Huntington Park Police Department has had "an absolutely excellent relationship" with the district attorney's local office.

Differences between Reiner and city officials became public at the press conference at which Reiner discussed the stun-gun incident and announced that he would charge the two police officers with assault. Reiner labeled the officers "thugs" and said he would investigate the practices of the entire department, which he called "frankly embarrassing to all of law enforcement."

Reiner also said City Council members were "apologists for the worst practices" of the Huntington Park Police Department.

Complaint of Smear Tactics

In response, Contessotto and the council asserted that Reiner had smeared the city Police Department. Council members last month asked both the state Bar Assn. and the state attorney general's office to investigate Reiner for misconduct.

With regard to the space situation in the police building, Contessotto said that the district attorney has complained about a lack of space at the Huntington Park police station and that the district attorney had been looking for an alternate location.

Petty, of the district attorney's office, agreed, but said the lack of space was a chronic problem and that his office has been looking for additional space for the past seven years. Council member William Cunningham said the city decided to make its decision now to give the district attorney "plenty of time to move out." He said in no way was the council attempting to retaliate against Reiner.

"It's just a matter of we're outgrowing the facility and we need the space," council member Jim Roberts said.

Mayor Herbert A. Hennes and Councilmen Thomas E. Jackson and Jack W. Parks were in Sacramento attending a California Contract Cities conference and could not be reached for comment.

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