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Downey : Attorney's Bill Unpaid

April 14, 1988

The Downey City Council on Tuesday declined to approve payment of $64,748 for the defense of Councilman James S. Santangelo in his recent conflict-of-interest trial after Councilman Roy L. Paul criticized the bill as excessive.

Paul wanted the council to refuse to pay Santangelo's lawyer, Leo T. Newton, but the council deadlocked at 2-2, with Santangelo abstaining. A motion by Councilman Robert G. Cormack to refer the bill to an arbitrator also failed.

Neither did the council approve payment of the bill as scheduled, leaving Newton to try to collect from the city, Mayor Diane P. Boggs said.

Newton was in court Wednesday and unavailable for comment, a spokeswoman said.

Santangelo is charged with misdemeanor conflict of interest in connection with his 1984 vote to expand Downey's redevelopment district. He owned property in the expansion area, which later was invalidated by a judge. A mistrial was declared in the Santangelo case last February after a jury deadlocked 11-1 for conviction. A hearing on a retrial has been scheduled June 13, with a tentative trial date set for July 18.

The city has paid Newton $20,000, and has remaining bills of $64,748. That includes $528 in interest on an unpaid $64,220 bill issued March 8.

Paul said the bill appeared to be excessive for the defense of a single misdemeanor charge. Paul, an attorney, said he also objected to paying the bill because it contained individual charges for Newton and co-counsel James Patterson when they worked together. Newton billed the city $155 an hour each for his and Patterson's services.

Paul said Newton had violated the terms of his contract with the city by not billing monthly. He also said the contract contained no provision for charging interest.

Santangelo criticized the council because it approved paying his legal bills after he was charged and "then you argue over the amount."

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