Another Stonewall by City Attorney Parkin

By: 
Stephen Downing

On July 2 the Beachcomber published an article headlined, City Attorney Sabotages Redistricting Initiative in which it was reported that in an April 15 memo to the Independent Redistricting Commission (IRC), the city attorney “clarified” for the commissioners that “current City Council districts may be used as a starting point by the IRC in drawing district boundaries,” and wrote, “In fact, it is the recommendation of this office that the IRC begin with those current districts.”

The city attorney backed up their recommendation with a Jan. 12, 5-page legal opinion from the law offices of Olson/Remcho, a law firm that the city attorney characterized as “the city’s outside redistricting counsel.”

Who is Behind the Alteration?

The April 15 memo with the Jan. 12 Olson/Remcho opinion attached was aimed at dealing in advance with item 2 of the upcoming April 21, IRC agenda in which the commission was to “adopt criteria to be used in the redistricting process.”

The memo did not address the fact that the IRC had not asked for a legal opinion on the matter, state why the opinion was being offered and recommended for adoption or who in city government asked that the city attorney deliver and recommend the opinion to the IRC commissioners.

In a June 16 letter to the IRC the framers of Measure DDD objected to the city attorney’s recommendation, provided a highly critical nine-point analysis of the Olson/Remcho legal opinion, pointedly advised the commissioners that, “the city, though the city attorney’s office, can only speculate what the framers of DDD intended because they have never asked us,“ alleged that the city hired an outside law firm to produce a legal memo that, “is, despite the voters’ clear intent, an attempt to sabotage the initiative” and suggested that the IRC commissioners “hire their own lawyer.”

City Attorney Backs Down

In response to the June 16 letter from the framers the city attorney wrote another memo to the IRC on June 30 addressing the content of the letters sent to the IRC from Common Cause and Equity for Cambodians (CCEC), telling the commissioners what they already knew from their meeting of April 21.

The city attorney wrote: “The commission considered and discussed the recommended action at some length and ultimately voted not to follow the recommendation. Instead the commission determined to proceed exclusively with the criteria outlined in the Charter, which was entirely within its discretion and which our office, as commission legal counsel, will fully support.”

The city attorney’s memo then offered a response to the framer’s arguments in an obvious effort to support the legitimacy of their original recommendation: “The courts have made clear that the voter’s intent must be gleaned from the text of the ballot measure and the ballot materials that were before the voters, not by consulting with the drafters.”

The memo continued: “Furthermore, it is important to keep in mind that Common Cause and Equity for Cambodians were not the only drafters of Measure DDD. The measure was placed on the ballot by the City Council, not by an initiative petition circulated by the voters. We hope this information is helpful in addressing your concerns.”

In response to the city attorney’s apparent self-vindication memo sent to the commissioners, one of the framers – Long Beach civil rights attorney Marc Coleman – told the Beachcomber that the city attorney’s office was wrong when it advised that the commission should not look to the drafters (framers) for interpretation of Measure DDD. He said, “The matter is not being challenged in a court of law and if the IRC was looking for the intent of the framers what better source is there to ask other than the framers themselves when we are still here and available?”

With regard to the city attorney’s statement that CCEC were not the only drafters of Measure DDD, Coleman said, “They don’t know what they’re talking about. We are the only drafters. There may have been small edits but there was no substantive changes to what the framers delivered to the City Council.”

The Beachcomber asked Coleman if he knew who in city government asked the city attorney to unilaterally contract with the law firm of Olson/Rencho for the legal opinion and offer the recommendation that the IRC commissioners begin the redistricting process “with current districts.” Coleman replied, “I don’t know but that’s a good question.”

The Beachcomber subsequently filed a Public Records Request (PRA) with the city attorney requesting: “all documents from all sources related to the request for the Olson/Remcho legal services, the approval chain and related documents involved in the request for legal services, the cost, invoicing and payment for such services and all records related to the distribution, analysis, comment, notes and directions given to any city employee once the Olson/Remcho opinion was received and ultimately delivered to the IRC.”

On July 15 the city attorney produced only the memos referenced in this article and wrote: “The city is withholding some documents or information pursuant to Ca. Govt. Code Section 6254 (k) (attorney-client privilege).”

The Beachcomber has scheduled a case assessment with private counsel to evaluate filing a public records lawsuit against the city to obtain the documents this newspaper believes it is legally entitled and of civic interest to our readership.

A special meeting of the IRC is scheduled for July 21, Poly High School, 1600 Atlantic Avenue at 6 p.m. Item 3 on the calendar is "to receive and file testimony from members of the public on Communities of Interest, a connected population that shares common social and economic interests that should be included within a single City Council district, with a focus on Council District 6.

 

Stephen Downing is a resident of Long Beach and a retired LAPD Deputy Chief of Police.

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Comments

Thank you for covering this important topic.

what do we expect from a corrupt city government. Noting will change until we get rid of this corrupt city attorney that is using our tax payer money to commit all this misconduct. The city attorney does not care if they get another lawsuit, because he is not held accountable and pay's out with our money. Let him pay out of his own money let see how quick it will take him to follow the law.

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