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D. A. Cites City Manager in Insurance Case

August 09, 1987|KAREN ROEBUCK | Times Staff Writer

A Los Angeles County district attorney's report released last week says that Hermosa Beach City Manager Gregory T. Meyer counseled employees to falsify forms to obtain insurance.

The report said prosecutors declined to charge Meyer, however, because there was no evidence that he profited from the actions and because they did not believe they could get a conviction. Meyer had been under investigation for possible conspiracy to commit insurance fraud and grand theft, Head Deputy Dist. Atty. Steve Sowders said.

Meyer, who has been city manager since 1981, declined to comment on the report but in the past has denied any wrongdoing.

City Council members were more upset with the district attorney's office than with the accusations against their highest-ranking employee. They criticized the agency for not keeping them informed of the investigation and for publicly releasing the report on Meyer.

"Quite frankly, my leanings are that the district attorney did something improper and not the city manager," said Mayor John Cioffi. "They have jeopardized a man's position in the community and his livelihood without any real proof that he did what they said he did. I think it's irresponsible; it's immoral."

He earlier said, "I intend to call (City Atty.) Jim Lough and ask if we can immediately ask the attorney general to look into the actions of the L. A. district attorney."

Deputy Dist. Atty. Herb Lapin said his agency followed standard procedures and communicated with the city through Lough.

The district attorney's office previously had decided not to prosecute any of five current or former city employees and officials who received insurance benefits they were not entitled to.

Lapin said prosecutors probably would not have been able to prove that the employees had any criminal intent when they falsified the forms.

The report on Meyer, signed by Lapin and Sowders, said the only evidence against the city manager was statements made by the employees and officials who falsely obtained insurance benefits.

"Additionally," the report said, "we have found no evidence that (Meyer) personally profited from his actions. It appears (Meyer) committed the acts involved to help city employees.

"Without the profit motive, it is believed a jury could not be convinced beyond a reasonable doubt, of any criminal intent . . . ," the report said.

Councilman Jim Rosenberger, who said he had not seen the report but was aware of it, said releasing it to the public may have defamed Meyer and may have violated his constitutional rights.

He added: "I'd have been more concerned (about the accusations against Meyer), if Mr. Lapin had been more concerned and taken legal action. Innocent until proven guilty."

Councilman Tony DeBellis could not be reached for comment. Of the other council members, only June Williams said she was glad the report was publicly released because she thinks it is the public's business.

But she said that she, too, was unhappy with what she and other council members consider a lack of communication from the district attorney's office about the 14-month investigation, which was closed last month.

Nearly four weeks ago, the district attorney's office gave City Atty. Lough a copy of the report released last week. Lough, who initially denied to The Times that he had a copy of the report, later said he sent the report back to the district attorney's office because he thought it was an internal document that should not be disseminated.

Council members said Lough had told them that he had a copy of the report but would not show it to them because it could put the city in unspecified legal trouble, council members said.

The district attorney's office made the report public last week after The Times made a formal request for it under the Public Records Act and after reviewing the office's routine policy of making such documents public.

Williams accused Lough this week of trying to protect Meyer by not giving the City Council a copy of the report when he received it last month.

"I do think he was trying to protect Greg. I think his first responsibility is to protect the city, not Greg, and his first . . . obligation is to the council and his first obligation is to tell the council everything he knows that he can legally tell us. He's under contract to us, not Greg," she said.

Lough did not return phone calls to his office after the report was released, but earlier he said he was trying to protect the city--and not an individual--when he decided not to show the report to the council.

Lough told The Times that he did not read the entire 14-sentence report or get a summary of its contents.

Report Picked Up

Lapin said, however, that he read the entire report over the phone to Lough, who then questioned him on specific parts. Lough sent a messenger to the district attorney's office that day to pick up a copy of the report and said he intended to show it to the council the following night, Lapin said.

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