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Ballpark Talks Halted Until Vote on Tuttle

September 28, 1996|HILARY E. MacGREGOR | TIMES STAFF WRITER

VENTURA — In an unexpected turn in Ventura's ballpark drama, two City Council members suddenly halted negotiations with the developer of a $18.7-million sports complex, delaying talks until the council decides Monday whether to reinstate an ousted councilman to the city's bargaining team.

Councilmen Jim Friedman and Ray Di Guilio, along with City Manager Donna Landeros, met for two hours Friday morning before abruptly adjourning until a decision is made Monday on returning Councilman Gary Tuttle to the negotiating committee.

But the delay may be an exercise in futility.

Four votes are needed to put Tuttle back. Two of the four council members who voted Tuttle off the team--Mayor Jack Tingstrom and Councilwoman Rosa Lee Measures--said Friday that they would oppose his reinstatement. Di Guilio said he could only support the move if Tuttle accepted certain conditions.

Tuttle himself will be out of town.

"He said, 'I'm not for the project.' He doesn't want to negotiate," Tingstrom said. "We need someone who will negotiate further."

Measures, too, remains unmoved.

"He removed himself," she said. "He stated that he had no interest in negotiations. He wanted to cease and desist. I consider that removing himself."

A letter from Tuttle, delivered to City Hall on Friday morning just as negotiations began, precipitated the last-minute delay.

Tuttle's letter stated his intention to rejoin the negotiating team if the council votes to reinstate him Monday, as Councilman Jim Monahan has proposed. Tuttle, who just left for a two-week vacation, requested that the committee hold no further meetings with developer John Hofer without him, if the councilman is reinstated. Tuttle said his vacation to the Cook Islands near New Zealand has been scheduled for a long time.

In canceling two meetings planned with Hofer before Monday's council meeting, negotiator Friedman said he did not want to hold more discussions until the Tuttle matter is resolved.

"In light of Jim Monahan's request to reinstate Gary Tuttle it would be inappropriate to resume negotiations until Monday's council vote to reinstate Gary to the negotiating committee," Friedman said.

The delay is just the latest surprise in a roller-coaster week that encompassed a marathon council meeting with emotional outbursts among members and dozens of phone calls from citizens--both for and against the stadium proposal.

On Monday night, the council voted 4 to 3 to resume negotiations for another month with Hofer for the construction of a 5,000-seat minor league baseball stadium behind the Ventura Auto Mall near Johnson Drive. They also voted 4 to 3 to remove Tuttle, the committee's most outspoken critic, from the negotiating team.

Council members Di Guilio, Measures, Tingstrom and Monahan voted to resume negotiations and remove Tuttle.

Friedman, Tuttle and Councilman Steve Bennett voted no.

But after more careful consideration, Monahan decided Tuttle's removal was "not right" and began lobbying for his reinstatement.

Monahan's move coincided with a public outcry about both the cost of the stadium and the council's treatment of Tuttle. Analysts say the city would lose $700,000 a year on the facility.

If the council decides to reinstate Tuttle, the original three-man team will resume talks Oct. 15 after Friedman and Tuttle return from vacation.

"I know for myself personally I cannot turn a deaf ear to the public outcry about the way Councilman Tuttle was handled," Friedman said. "I would hope council members would think and seriously reconsider."

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