The Santa Monica Rent Control Board has narrowed its search for a replacement for fired administrator Howell Tumlin, and a selection could be made as early as next week, board members said.
The board met earlier this week to sift through nearly 90 applications. Tumlin, who was dismissed abruptly last November, had held the position for seven years.
The board emerged with a list of six finalists who will be interviewed next week, Chairwoman Susan Davis said. She said that she hopes the board can make its final choice by the end of the week.
The board voted unanimously to dismiss Tumlin, saying it sought "a new direction." Davis and board member Wayne Bauer said at the time that they wanted a more activist board and an administrator who would better enact "progressive" policies.
Some landlords who oppose rent control expressed concern that the board would become more militant and would seek to toughen rent laws even further.
Santa Monica's rent control, voted into law in 1979, is considered one of the strictest in the nation. It limits how much rents can be raised annually and restricts rent increases when tenants move out.
The administrator implements rent control policies decided by the board and oversees the Rent Control Agency, an administrative body separate from the board.
Both Davis and Bauer praised the pool of candidates who applied for the job, including a couple from as far away as Texas.
"We definitely want someone we'll feel comfortable with and confident in, who can stay with the agency," Bauer said.
Davis said all six finalists are from the Los Angeles area. They are:
Mary Ann Yurkonis, a former acting administrator of the board who is an attorney for the city.
B. J. Mitchell, acting administrator of the board and head of the board's informations division.
Neil Stone, a former board member.
Shoshana Tso, service director of the Westside Center for Independent Living.
Fred Washington, administrative officer of Los Angeles' Afro-American Museum.
Nina Jaffee, director of community programs for the Greater L. A. Partnership for the Homeless.
The annual salary for the position was advertised at $76,000 to $85,000, but some board members said they would consider reducing it. Tumlin was earning close to $69,000.
In taking its action against Tumlin, the board said it was exercising a contractual clause that allows the five-member body to dismiss the administrator without cause.
Tumlin, who said he was "totally shocked" by the decision, filed a $500,000 claim against the city on Dec. 14, labeling the action "patently unfair" and demanding a hearing, possible reinstatement and payment of a bonus.
Davis said the city remanded the claim to the board, which last week rejected it "in its entirety."
"He has now exhausted his administrative remedies," Davis said. "If he wants to sue, that's up to him. We believe our legal position is solid and correct, and we'll defend it. We acted fairly."
Davis said Tumlin was given about $30,000 in pay and benefits when he was dismissed.
In another development, the board appointed Julie Dad, a researcher and Ocean Park resident, to replace board member Penny Nagler, who resigned to dedicate more time to her job as a lawyer.
Dad, who began her duties on the board last week, co-chairs Santa Monicans for Renters' Rights, the liberal political faction that dominates the board.
Landlords opposed to rent control complain that the board is biased against them and refuses to take their positions into consideration.
A group of landlords is mounting a legal challenge to rent control. They have targeted Santa Monica first and hope to expand the attack nationwide.
The group, called the Foundation for the Defense of Free Enterprise, is sponsoring a lawsuit in federal court, pitting an 89-year-old apartment owner against the City of Santa Monica. Santa Monica has moved to have the suit dismissed. A hearing is scheduled for next month.