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Officials Assail Williams' Threat to Sue

LAPD: James Hahn, who has backed chief's bid for second term, calls the move 'disappointing.' Council members say suggestion of settlement is an outrage.

March 01, 1997|JODI WILGOREN and JIM NEWTON | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

One of the most prominent supporters of Los Angeles Police Chief Willie L. Williams' bid for a second term said Friday that he is "very disappointed" in Williams' threat to file a lawsuit against the city if he is not reappointed.

Los Angeles City Atty. James K. Hahn, the only citywide elected official who has endorsed Williams, instead expressed confidence in the Police Commission's review of the chief's performance, which is expected to conclude late next week.

"I do support Chief Williams. Crime has been going down. Complaints against the Police Department are down. Confidence in the Police Department is up," Hahn said. "But I am disappointed now that the chief is not going to let the process run its course. It's wrong to be talking about suing the city."

Several City Council members expressed outrage over revelations in The Times that the chief was preparing a lawsuit and negotiating with a City Council member asking for a settlement of $1 million to $3 million.

"It's like extortion," said Councilman Joel Wachs. "It just makes it so totally clear that all he really cares about is the money."

Another council member opposed to any payout for Williams said an informal poll of colleagues revealed that the body is deeply split, with six members strongly opposed to any settlement and about the same number willing to consider one if the amount is acceptable.

Few council members appear eager to endorse any settlement that would cost $1 million or more. But a less costly deal of perhaps $250,000 might win the support of as many as eight members, according to one council member.

Councilwoman Laura Chick, who heads the Public Safety Committee, said she was "absolutely dismayed" by Williams' legal threats.

"It seems that he's basically saying either give me the job for another five years or else. Boy, that doesn't help the process become more productive or objective," she said. "People forget that Chief Williams was hired for a five-year term. Period."

Meanwhile, Councilman Nate Holden--Williams' strongest supporter--said Friday that he planned to ask Hahn to remove the Police Commission from the evaluation process. Williams had made a similar request Thursday, but Hahn denied it, saying that only an elected official or member of the commission was authorized to make such a request.

At a Rotary Club luncheon Friday, Police Commission President Raymond C. Fisher said that the chief's actions have been distracting, but that the panel is forging ahead with its deliberations over whether to reappoint the chief. Fisher also vehemently denied the charge by Williams' attorneys that the commission already has decided to dump the chief and is merely going through the motions.

"They are alleging that this is a done deal," he said. "It's never been a done deal."

While Fisher previously said he wanted to finish Williams' evaluation by the end of February, it now appears there will be no decision until the end of next week.

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