City attorney may be fired

DOWNEY - The Downey City Council met in special session Thursday night where they considered terminating its contract with the law firm Best Best & Krieger for its role in representing the neighboring city of Bell, which has been caught in a firestorm of controversy after the exorbitant salaries of its city council and administrators which were revealed by the L.A. Times.Results of the meetings were not available before this newspaper went to press. Ed Lee, an attorney with Best Best & Krieger, serves as lead counsel for Downey, Bell and Gardena. In all, Best Best & Krieger represents about 24 municipalities. The Downey City Council met in closed session Tuesday to discuss Lee's work with Bell. No announcement was made then, but the council called for a special meeting July 29 at 4 p.m. Lee, when reached by staff writer Henry Veneracion, declined to comment. In an e-mail Wednesday, Councilman Mario Guerra said he was "disturbed" at any association between Downey and Bell. "To be put in the same breath is an embarrassment to our City staff, City Council and more importantly, to our citizens," Guerra said. "We are a great, conservative and ethical city and any association with them and us is wrong and I resent it." The Times reported this month that four Bell council members were being paid more than $100,000 each, and its city manager nearly $800,000 annually. Downey council members make $697 monthly, and the mayor $821 per month. Council members also receive $30 for each development commission meeting attended, but the number of meetings is capped at four per month. Downey city council members do not receive health, retirement "or any other benefits," the city said in a press release. City Manager Gerald Caton earns $220,480, and Assistant City Manager Gilbert Livas makes $200,719, about the average for cities of comparable size. The salaries of city employees are available on the city's website by downloading the annual budget report, officials said. "The open and transparent nature of Downey's budget has always been the highest priority of both the city council and city administration," assistant deputy city manager Scott Pomrehn said in a statement. "Having said that, the unfortunate circumstances in our neighboring city have reminded all of us the importance of keeping the public trust at the forefront of everything we do as public servants."

********** Published: July 29, 2010 - Volume 9 - Issue 15