LONG BEACH — City Councilman Edd Tuttle said he plans to fight an attempt by his former wife to garnish a portion of his city paycheck for failure to make more than $1,400 in back child-support payments.
"I'm sick and tired of the nit-picking and fighting over the issue," Tuttle said. "It was clearly politically motivated. She knows I'm up for reelection in April. I think it was a deliberate exercise in actual malice."
Tuttle's ex-wife, Jan Herman of Long Beach, filed an "application for earnings withholding order" with the Los Angeles County marshal's office, which delivered the order Thursday to the city auditor's office. Herman obtained a Superior Court order Nov. 30 to collect $1,466 from Tuttle.
The order is a common procedure for collecting overdue child support, said Wayne Doss, a deputy in the district attorney's family support division. It requires an employer to deduct half of whatever is left of an ex-spouse's wages after taxes and Social Security until the debt is paid.
A City Council member earns $13,224 a year and is paid bi-weekly. City Auditor Robert Fronke would not discuss the Tuttle matter, but said his office policy is to "record the garnishment and make a payroll deduction to cover it."
Funds for Two Sons
Herman, who has remarried since her divorce from Tuttle in 1979, said she was forced to take the action because the 8th District councilman shorted support payments to her for their two sons, ages 10 and 13, from September, 1986, through last July.
"It's the kids' money, not mine," Herman said.
Tuttle's support payments were increased by the court to $453 a month starting in October, up from $412 a month during the previous 12 months, according to Herman's payment receipt record. But during the 11 months in question, the record states that Tuttle only made the full support payments during a single three-month period. Her record alleges that Tuttle's payments fell short the rest of the time.
Tuttle, who has asked city financial officials to tell him when the garnishment order is served so he can contest the action, said he can produce receipts to show that he has bought things for his children that are not reflected in his wife's records. He added that he will seek joint custody of the boys.
"I'm boiling mad about this thing right now," Tuttle said.
Deputy Dist. Atty. Doss said his office contends that while a father may buy items for his children, he cannot deduct them from his monthly cash child support payments. "It's not a defense as far as we are concerned," Doss said.
Tuttle said "I've always made (full) payments" to support his children except for several months two years ago when he suffered a loss of income while enrolled in an alcohol treatment program.
He acknowledged that he drives a Porsche sports car, owns a home near Lake Arrowhead and has a quarter interest in a desert residence near Joshua Tree National Monument. In Long Beach, Tuttle and his present wife live in an apartment.
"Of course, I have nice assets and again I will take the position that the children are receiving adequate compensation," he said.
Series of Troubles
To Tuttle, the wage garnishment comes as the latest in a series of problems that have struck his political career.
In October, the City Council adjusted the boundary of Tuttle's district after the councilman discovered he had moved into a Bixby Knolls apartment on the wrong side of the street. The change took about 20 residents out of Councilman Ray Grabinski's 7th District and added them to Tuttle's district.
Last July, Tuttle was involved in a tiff concerning whether he used a pass for a free ride from a helicopter company seeking a city license. Tuttle said he received the pass but never used it, then later said the pass was stolen from his office. He paid L.A. Helicopter $130 for the demonstration ride for himself and his wife.
In 1985, the City Council voted to censure Tuttle after he was arrested for public drunkenness in an incident in which he shouted racial slurs to a group of teen-agers aboard a city bus. Tuttle apologized and soon afterward admitted to having a longstanding drinking problem for which he sought treatment.