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AROUND THE SOUTH BAY

Harman refuses to make a federal case out of the issue of lawyer-bashing.

July 11, 1993

NO JOKE: Rep. Jane Harman (D-Marina Del Rey), a corporate lawyer before her election to Congress last fall, was asked recently to give her views on the issue of lawyer-bashing.

The Harvard Law School graduate came through in a fashion that would make her alma mater proud.

At a meeting with local reporters, Harman was asked to comment on the debate generated when the State Bar Assn. president asked for an end to lawyer jokes after the slaying of eight people at a San Francisco law firm. She also was asked to provide her own favorite lawyer joke.

"I think some lawyer-bashing is meritorious," Harman said, "but there is something in legal training I consider important in public service, and that is problem-solving."

She never did get around to offering her favorite lawyer joke.

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WYMER DROPPED: Torrance officials will drop their civil case against a financial adviser who is serving a federal sentence for engineering a giant investment scam that bilked the city of $6.2 million and 60 other government agencies of more than $200 million.

The Torrance City Council decided this week to dismiss Steven D. Wymer of Orange County as a defendant in a $6.2-million lawsuit that had been filed against him and his two companies, Institutional Treasury Management and Denlan & Co. Torrance is still suing the two companies because they may have assets that the city could recover.

Wymer, who pleaded guilty to fraud and misappropriating public funds, was ordered last May to serve 14 1/2 years in federal prison and to pay restitution, including $6.2 million in losses and $200,000 in interest to the city of Torrance.

Although the city has not yet collected any money from Wymer, city officials said they decided to drop their civil suit against him because the criminal judgment made it unnecessary.

"We've already got one $6.4-million judgment against Wymer," said Torrance City Atty. John Fellows III. "We don't need another one."

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HEROES OF CHALLENGE: Actor Billy Barty, a 3-foot-9-inch dwarf who founded the Little People of America Foundation, will serve as grand marshal for the annual Hawthorne Community Fair that begins July 21.

Barty, who earned a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for roles in movies ranging from "Alice in Wonderland" to "Day of the Locust," will be joined by other little people during the five-day fair, which is sponsored by the Kiwanis Club of Hawthorne.

The fair, which will include several rides, will have as its theme "Heroes of Challenge" in honor of Barty's foundation, which has been helping little people with their medical, psychological, vocational, educational and social problems since 1975.

Says Barty: "The physical barriers are easier to break than the mental ones. Changing people's opinions about the disabled is a much more challenging task."

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HOLDING THE LINE: At his own request, Manhattan Beach City Manager Bill Smith will forgo a raise and increase in benefits under a contract renewal agreement adopted by the City Council this week.

The two-year contract, which expires June 30, 1995, continues to pay Smith $100,272 annually. That salary puts him slightly below his peers in El Segundo and Hawthorne and nearly $24,000 a year behind Redondo Beach City Manager William E. Kirchhoff, according to Smith's calculations.

The contract provides Smith with a car owned and insured by the city. He also receives 20 days of vacation and 10 days of executive leave annually. Before voluntarily resigning, Smith is required to give the city three months' notice. Should the City Council fire him, the city will owe him six months of severance pay.

Councilman Dan Stern praised Smith, who joined the city three years ago, for reorganizing City Hall, saying the move saved the city money and made it more efficient. He said Smith had "transformed the city into an open shop where the goal is service to the community," and that the council's decision to hold back on a raise was not a sign of dissatisfaction with his work.

"I think he's doing a fantastic job, so it's not performance," Stern said. "But in these times of tight budgets and high unemployment . . . we just decided, with Bill's concurrence, that there wasn't money in the budget for a salary increase."

"He recommended it," Stern added, "and that's another reason I think he's so great."

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

"There's a lot of people who were afraid to say something because Roscoe has a lot of followers, a lot of political connections."

--Redondo Beach Risk Manager Eugene Cornelius on why fellow allergy sufferers did not complain sooner about Roscoe, a gray-and-white cat that has been a fixture at City Hall for more than a decade. The cat has been banned from city offices during the day.

LAST WEEK'S HIGHLIGHTS

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