During two quick closed sessions Wednesday, the City of Industry's new council majority fired a city attorney who had led a lawsuit against the powerful Perez family and its businesses, then hired a law firm that once represented the city of Bell.
Casso & Sparks, which has also represented the cities of La Puente and South El Monte, will serve as the primary legal counsel for the city and its entities.
The move comes a day after the City Council voted to repeal part of a new ordinance that protected the city attorney and other city employees from losing their jobs for at least 180 days after a new council is elected.
The ordinance still protects the city clerk, city treasurer and City Manager Kevin Radecki, but that could change, Radecki believes.
"They're going to try something," said Radecki, who has accused the new council of representing Perez business interests.
Council members Newell Ruggles, Mark D. Radecki — the city manager's brother — and Cory C. Moss, who ran as a slate backed by the Perez family in the June 2 election, voted in favor of both actions Wednesday, with Councilman Jeff Parriott opposed. Councilman Roy Haber III was absent.
James Casso, the new city attorney, was Bell's interim city attorney during that city's corruption scandal. The council chose Casso and his firm because of his experience working with the Los Angeles County district attorney's office, Ruggles said.
The D.A. and the state controller have launched investigations into Industry's contracts with Perez-owned companies after auditors found those companies had reaped $326 million from city contracts.
Ruggles said Michele Vadon was fired as city attorney because she was not a good watchdog for the city's finances. "The city attorney should have been watching over those contracts and billing more thoroughly," he said.
Charles Slyngstad, an attorney with Vadon's firm, said it's not the city attorney's job to watch finances.
"We regret their decision, and it's been a privilege to represent the lawful interests of the City of Industry," Slyngstad said.
Vadon had been Industry's city attorney since 1998. Earlier this week, Perez attorneys filed a motion to disqualify her from the city's lawsuit against the Perezes, claiming Vadon filed the suit to protect her own financial interests. She and her firm, Burke, Williams & Sorensen, received nearly $10 million in legal fees from the city over the last five years, according to the motion.
Casso said the city hadn't decided whether to keep pursuing the lawsuit.