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Mayor's Feud With Key Official Escalates

Politics: City's fiscal analyst says Riordan's staff refused to give him a summary of proposed 2000-2001 budget. Council members express chagrin over standoff.

April 12, 2000|TINA DAUNT | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The bitter feud between Mayor Richard Riordan and the city's chief administrative officer, Bill Fujioka, has escalated, with the mayor's staff refusing to give the city's fiscal analyst a summary of Riordan's proposed 2000-2001 budget.

Fujioka said he was informed by workers at the city's print shop Monday that he was not allowed to have a copy of the document, which is due out later this week.

"The bottom line is this is pettiness," Fujioka said. "We should all be working together."

Fujioka and Riordan have been at odds for months, culminating with the mayor's announcement in January that he wants to fire the CAO, whom Riordan and his aides regard as too friendly with City Council members. Until Riordan can get the backing of enough of the council to oust Fujioka from his position, City Hall insiders believe his staff will try to bully the CAO into leaving by denying him access to important city information.

"This shows once again the mayor's propensity to exceed his authority," said Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas, one of Riordan's biggest critics on the council. "This is a system of checks and balances. The mayor over and over again has tried to ignore that."

Deputy Mayor Jennifer Roth, who is Riordan's budget and finance director, denied that Fujioka was cut out of the loop. Although he may not have a copy of the summary, he should know what's in the report because he was included in the mayor's budget sessions, she said.

"There is nothing the CAO does not already know about the proposed budget," said Roth, adding that she intends to meet with Fujioka to discuss his concerns today.

Roth set up the meeting with Fujioka after he sent an e-mail to the mayor's staff Tuesday morning accusing them of circumventing his "Charter mandated responsibilities."

Fujioka argued that he needs to review all budget materials as soon as possible because there is less than two weeks between the date Riordan formally releases his budget and the beginning of the council's hearings on the matter.

"There is no business reason to deny access to this information," Fujioka wrote in the e-mail. "The action to intentionally restrict our access to this information is totally unnecessary and unprofessional."

He also said that after he contacted the city's print shop, he was told that employees had "explicit orders to not provide a copy of the budget summary to me specifically and to the office in general."

"According to the staff, this is the first time the CAO has been restricted from receiving this information at this point in the budget process," Fujioka said.

Fujioka--who was hired by the mayor last July--also said that he expects Riordan to try to fire him again within months. The mayor now needs 10 council votes to oust the CAO. But in July, when the new City Charter takes effect, the mayor will only need six votes.

"They told me a month and a half ago that they are going to fire me," Fujioka said.

Councilman Mike Feuer said it is imperative for the mayor's office to work out its differences with Fujioka. "This is very counterproductive," Feuer said. "It is incumbent upon all parties involved to rise above it. We have significant issues and challenges. . . . We all recognize the importance of having a well-informed CAO."

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