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Hahn Aide Middlebrook to Leave Post

The deputy mayor who managed the mayor's election campaign will join a public relations firm with close ties to the administration.

September 04, 2003|Patrick McGreevy and Jessica Garrison | Times Staff Writers

Deputy Mayor Matt Middlebrook, who managed Mayor James K. Hahn's election campaign and played a key role in shaping the mayor's agenda, announced Wednesday that he was resigning to join a public relations firm.

Middlebrook will be a senior vice president for Fleishman Hillard, a firm with close ties to Hahn, and head up its San Francisco office. He said the job offered new opportunities and a chance to return to the Bay Area, where he grew up.

Now deputy mayor for communications and policy, Middlebrook managed Hahn's reelection campaign for city attorney in 1997, served four years as Hahn's chief administrative officer in the city attorney's office, and then managed Hahn's 2001 campaign for mayor.

"For over six years, Matt has been one of my most valued and trusted advisors," Hahn said in a statement. He added that Middlebrook "has played a key role in shaping nearly every major initiative."

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Friday September 05, 2003 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 48 words Type of Material: Correction
Matt Middlebrook -- An article in Thursday's California section on the resignation of Los Angeles Deputy Mayor Matt Middlebrook incorrectly said he was taking a job as head of Fleishman Hillard's San Francisco office. Middlebrook is going to head up the firm's public affairs practice in San Francisco.

Those initiatives included Hahn's anti-secession drive and proposals toexpand the police force this year and to spend $9 billion to modernize Los Angeles International Airport.

Though Middlebrook is credited with being a strong advocate for the mayor, he has been criticized for sometimes using a heavy-handed approach that alienated key policymakers.

During budget deliberations earlier this year, council members accused Middlebrook and other mayoral aides of being inflexible in pushing for a larger police force. The council defeated Hahn's proposal.

"The criticism is unfair," said political consultant Rick Taylor. "He has fallen on some swords for the mayor and been the tough guy in the office. You need a tough guy."

Councilman Eric Garcetti agreed. "Matt was the lightning rod for a lot of stuff, and that's what a good staff member does," Garcetti said.

The announcement that Middlebrook would work for Fleishman Hillard raised some concern among ethics watchdogs. The public relations firm is a major political fund-raiser for Hahn, and his administration has awarded the company half a dozen city contracts.

E-mails obtained by The Times showed that Middlebrook was a key point person for Hahn in communicating with Fleishman Hillard, which also provided the mayor with pro bono assistance worth tens of thousands of dollars.

"Any time you have an elected official or one of their top employees traveling through the revolving door from the public sector to the private sector it should raise concerns," said Paul Ryan of the ethics watchdogCenter for Governmental Studies.

Middlebrook said he would comply with city rules prohibiting him from lobbying city officials for a year, but expected to be able to do some work on the Fleishman Hillard contracts promoting Los Angeles city agencies.

The resignation, effective Friday, represented the latest of several recent departures from Hahn's administration.

Hahn's top economic development deputy, Jonathan Kevles, recently left to work for the Los Angeles Community Redevelopment Agency. Another deputy mayor, Brian Williams, has moved at least temporarily over to the Bureau of Contract Services.

"It's unfortunate that the politically savvy people are leaving the mayor's office," said Hilda Delgado, who recently quit the mayor's press office to work for the County Federation of Labor.

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