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Council Considers Staff Subpoena Power

October 28, 1998|MARINA MALIKOFF

The Ventura City Council has postponed granting city staff members subpoena power in administrative hearings and investigations.

Under current regulations, only the City Council is authorized to subpoena witnesses or documents in connection with such hearings, said City Atty. Robert Boehm.

The city does not have a policy for other city officials--such as the city attorney and city manager--to issue subpoenas, but Deputy City Atty. Karl Berger said a procedure should exist in case the need arises.

However, some City Council members disagreed.

"We haven't had to use this before," said Councilman Jack Tingstrom. "Why now? This is an absolute overuse of power."

Berger said most witnesses are cooperative and Monday's proposal was intended as a preventive measure.

To illustrate the potential need for the ordinance, Berger said it is possible that a witness in a police misconduct investigation may be reluctant to testify without being subpoenaed.

Three council members voted against the proposal: Tingstrom, Jim Monahan and Deputy Mayor Ray Di Guilio.

Mayor Jim Friedman and Councilmen Brian Brennan and Sandy Smith supported the motion. Councilwoman Donna De Paola was absent for the vote.

After De Paola arrived, the seven-member council unanimously passed a motion led by Di Guilio for a modified version of the subpoena proposal. City staff was ordered to provide specific reasons why the ordinance is necessary.

Other cities that have adopted a similar ordinance are Santa Barbara, Pasadena, San Diego, Los Angeles and San Francisco, Berger said.

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