Two city council members have dropped their attempt to place City Atty. Edward J. Cooper on an administrative leave, ending a two-month-long split in the council.
Citing political backlash, council members Miguel A. Pulido and Ron May said they will not pursue their plan to hire a private attorney to try to force Cooper out pending a performance evaluation.
"This became a hot issue. The administrative leave became bigger than the issue of his evaluation," Pulido said.
Since Oct. 17, Cooper has been defying orders from Councilmen Pulido, May, John Acosta and Richards L. Norton, who voted to place Cooper on a 60-day paid leave. Cooper had argued that the city charter requires five votes to remove him as city attorney.
The controversy over Cooper has split the council. During regular council meetings, members have peppered each other with accusations ranging from conflicts of interest to favoritism.
Critics contend that the move to place the city attorney on leave is connected to lawsuits several council members have filed against the city. Cooper has represented the city in those lawsuits. The four council members have refused to discuss their motives.
Cooper said Tuesday that he still believes that Acosta or Norton will try to oust him.
"I'm still not off the hook," Cooper said.
The two councilmen were unavailable for comment.
Mayor Daniel H. Young and council members Daniel E. Griset and Patricia A. McGuigan support Cooper. Young has accused Norton of having a conflict of interest when he voted because he has a pending lawsuit against the city. Santa Ana has a countersuit against Norton.