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South Gate Revokes Robles Deal

The council cancels contracts with him and others, paving the way for dismissals.

May 14, 2003|Richard Marosi | Times Staff Writer

The South Gate City Council on Tuesday night revoked the contracts of Deputy City Manager Albert Robles and other top administrators, clearing the way for the officials to be fired.

The moves, which residents greeted with loud applause and pumping fists in the council chambers, came three months after Robles was tossed from office in a recall election. Robles, the onetime political boss, was kept on the payroll because his former council allies, who were also ousted by voters, gave him and other administrators lucrative severance packages.

The council, in unanimously canceling the agreements, said in the resolution that the perks given to Robles, City Manager Jesus Marez and others were so inconsistent with good public policy that they "shocked the conscience."

Ten administrators were given, among other things, nine weeks of paid vacation and sick leave per year; $375 per month car allowances; and one year's worth of salary if they quit.

Another provision called for severance packages worth 18 months of salary if the officials were fired. That clause, said council members, delayed them from taking action until Tuesday night, which marked the culmination of a legal review of the contracts. Last month, the council rescinded the contracts of former Acting Police Chief Rick Lopez, Assistant Chief Mark Van Holt and Deputy Chief Carl Heintz, effectively ending their employment.

Though the city stills risks litigation -- the severance agreements total more than $2.5 million -- council members acted after residents demanded that the city move aggressively against many people tied to the former administration.

"I'm ashamed that these people work in this community," said resident Sam Echols, who had urged the council to nullify the contracts.

The decision whether to keep the administration officials now rests on City Manager Fred Maley. He is expected to act swiftly against Robles and possibly others. "Those issues will be resolved in the very near future," said Maley, who declined to elaborate.

Robles, in a phone interview, said the council's decision marked a dangerous precedent that would allow future administrations to set aside any contract. He threatened legal action if fired, and repeated his earlier offer to return to work.

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