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City Officials Get Cunliffe's Response to Accusations

October 22, 1987|VICTOR MERINA | Times Staff Writer

Attorneys for Sylvia Cunliffe, besieged head of the Los Angeles Department of General Services, met privately with city officials Wednesday to try to refute charges that could lead to her firing as general manager of the city's fourth-largest agency.

Cunliffe, who is mired in allegations of mismanagement and other charges, was not present during the 30-minute meeting. Nor was Mayor Tom Bradley, who has announced that he will dismiss his appointee unless she can show the accusations are baseless.

'Refutes the Allegations'

But Godfrey Isaac, Cunliffe's lead attorney, emerged from the closed-door session saying he was "absolutely confident our documentation refutes the allegations."

"I believe that we have presented sufficient material to the mayor that he ought to reverse his decision to terminate Sylvia," he added.

Isaac said he presented the city with a 54-page rebuttal, 20 documents to support Cunliffe's contentions and declarations from two Department of General Services employees who were central figures in some of the allegations.

However, Isaac would not release the contents or details of his report because of a pending criminal investigation of Cunliffe by police and the district attorney. The criminal charges include allegations that she harassed a city employee who had accused her of misconduct by opening his confidential personnel records to other city officials.

Cunliffe has been on a forced paid leave of absence from her $90,243-a-year job since last June when Bradley appointed a committee to investigate charges that she mismanaged her department and helped friends and relatives obtain favorable city jobs, contracts or real estate deals.

Paid Leave Extended

Her leave was scheduled to expire Wednesday, but Bradley extended that deadline through Monday. In a letter to Cunliffe following Wednesday's meeting, Bradley said the extended leave was necessary "to allow myself time to evaluate your submittal."

Deputy Mayor Mike Gage, who attended the private meeting along with Deputy City Atty. Arthur Walsh, said Bradley is expected to make his decision on Cunliffe by next week.

Isaac said later that he had questioned the fairness of the committee that investigated Cunliffe and also objected to the role of the city attorney's office, which represented Cunliffe when she was acting as general manager and is now advising the mayor in the disciplinary actions against her.

"I think Sylvia has been treated unfairly, and I feel her due process rights have been trampled on," Isaac said.

Cunliffe has been the only general manager for the Department of General Services since it was formed in 1979. For Bradley to fire Cunliffe, approval by the City Council would be necessary.

If the council concurs, Cunliffe can request a hearing before the Civil Service Commission. And if the commission also upholds the firing, Cunliffe could then take the matter to court.

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