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Mayor Misses Deadline for Making Appointments to City Commissions

Power shifts to council president, who can submit Hahn's list or make new selections for 20 seats.

September 19, 2003|Patrick McGreevy | Times Staff Writer

Tardiness by Los Angeles Mayor James K. Hahn has cost him the authority to make 20 city appointments this year and has stymied his attempt to replace a planning commissioner who drew fire for lobbying other planners on behalf of developers.

The replacement of Allan Abshez is among 20 appointments stuck in limbo because Hahn missed a deadline for filling the seats of commissioners whose terms have expired.

The gaffe means that the power to appoint has transferred to City Council President Alex Padilla, who can either submit to the City Council the names Hahn has chosen or pick his own appointees.

"We are in discussion with the mayor's office about what the next step would be," said David Gershwin, a spokesman for Padilla. "We have not committed to making the [mayor's] nominations."

Although the Aug. 14 deadline for the mayor to make the appointments lapsed just hours before Hahn headed out on a two-week vacation to Hawaii, a spokeswoman for the mayor said it was careful deliberation, not vacation planning, that caused his office to miss the deadline.

"The commissions are very important to the mayor and the council and they need to reflect the ethnic and geographic diversity of the city, and it requires a great amount of time and thought," said Angie Levine, a Hahn spokeswoman.

"We hope the council president understands and cooperates to allow for the best appointments possible."

Commissions with openings include those involved in planning, animal regulation, redevelopment, water and homelessness.

In a list of appointments submitted to the City Clerk on Aug. 20, Hahn nominated attorney Elizabeth J. Giffin to fill a seat on the Central Area Planning Commission currently held by Abshez.

Hahn spokeswoman Levine said that Abshez's lobbying work had nothing to do with the mayor's decision not to reappoint him when his term expired June 30.

"The mayor just likes from time to time to give new people a chance to serve the city," she said.

Abshez, like other commissioners whose terms have expired, continues to serve on the Central Area commission until areplacement is confirmed.

Hahn's decision was welcomed by neighbors of Westwood Village Memorial Park. Owners of the cemetery had hired Abshez as their attorney this year to argue their case for expansion before the Citywide Planning Commission and the West Los Angeles Area Planning Commission.

Opponents of the project said it appeared there was a conflict of interest in having a city commissioner lobby other commissioners for paid clients.

"I think the mayor acted wisely," said Tamar Hoffs, president of the Friends of Westwood Village Memorial Park. "Removing that questionable air is a very positive thing."

In May, City Atty. Rocky Delgadillo said Abshez could legally lobby planning commissions in Los Angeles other than the one he sits on, but added that having a commissioner lobby City Hall "doesn't pass the smell test."

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