Baxter Ward, a former Los Angeles County supervisor and television newscaster, briefly returned to the spotlight this week, this time as an angry citizen demanding that the city repair damage he thinks it caused to his San Fernando Valley property during a public works project.
The 68-year-old Ward, who also filed a $450,000 claim against the city, Tuesday displayed the same muckraking style that characterized his eight years on the Board of Supervisors, appearing before the City Council's Finance and Revenue Committee to discuss his dispute with the city.
He publicly accused the city attorney of deceiving the City Council by not providing all of the information about his case.
And he called for an investigation into a possible conflict of interest by a geologist hired by the city to investigate the complaint. Ward claimed that the geologist, who concluded that the city was not responsible for damage to the property, was involved in building the flood-control project and should not have been brought in to assess the problem.
Assistant City Atty. Edward C. Dygert said a second geologist hired by the city agreed that the project did not damage Ward's property.
Ward--using his legal name of Schwellenback (he used Ward when he entered broadcasting)--filed a claim against the city in April. He contends that a city-built flood-control basin cut off access to a lot he owns next to his Vanalden Avenue home in Tarzana and that he has been unable to sell the property as a result.
Ward represented the 5th District, which includes most of the San Fernando Valley, on the Board of Supervisors for eight years until his defeat in 1980 by Mike Antonovich.
After his defeat, Ward worked as a commentator for KABC, where he had served as a news anchor until 1969, when he resigned to run unsuccessfully for mayor of Los Angeles.
Since leaving Channel 7 in 1984, Ward has been working full time on a murder mystery about Proposition 13, the 1978 tax-cutting initiative that was approved by voters while he was a supervisor. The book runs 480 pages, Ward said Tuesday, adding, "I've rewritten it six times."
Asked if he misses political office, Ward said in the sonorous voice trained from years behind a microphone, "Oh no. No. No. No."
As soon as he can resolve his dispute with the city, Ward said, he and his wife, Karen, hope to move to the Seattle area where Ward grew up.
But a resolution may take some time. The committee asked the city attorney to meet with Ward to try to end the dispute. A progress report is due in two weeks.