Snyder to Quit City Council, Blames Mounting Pressures : City Hall Puzzled by His Timing

Times Staff Writer

Councilman Arthur K. Snyder, long the most controversial member of the Los Angeles City Council, today resigned in the dramatic fashion that often characterized his nearly 18 years in political office. He will leave office July 1.

Snyder currently is fighting an allegation that he molested his 9-year-old daughter four or five years ago. In a recent, closed Dependency Court hearing, a judge reportedly found sufficient evidence to support the allegation, raised first by a former wife and later by the county Department of Public Social Services.

In a morning press conference that included his current wife, Delia, Snyder denied that the child molestation charges were the reason he stepped down. He cited other pressures.

His 34-year-old wife is expecting a child in August, he said, and "it is my conclusion that on the advice of her doctor that she deserves a more peaceful and productive life than I have been able to give her in the past two years." Snyder said his wife had a miscarriage last year when opponents fought hard, and failed, to recall Snyder from office.

The timing of Snyder's resignation shocked and puzzled some political observers of City Hall. No criminal charges so far have been filed against Snyder, and his resignation does not take effect for six months.

Will Practice Law

He said he wanted the time to complete "unfinished business" for the largely Latino East Los Angeles district he represents. After he leaves the council, he will practice law, he said.

Delores Sanchez, publisher of several newspapers in the East Los Angeles area Snyder represents, said the councilman told her a few weeks ago that he planned to resign "but I laughed it off."

His desire to wait until July 1, in midterm, could also be tied to his desire "to discourage the council from appointing a successor and instead making it more likely that the council will call a special election," said Sanchez, who has known Snyder for several years. "I can't see him wanting to give up all sources of his influence in the Eastside."

Although the City Charter says that the council can take no action to replace Snyder until he leaves office, a spokeswoman for the city clerk's office said the city attorney is studying the charter to see whether the council could take steps to ensure a successor as soon as Snyder vacates the office.

Council President Pat Russell said she "can't see any way" that the council would want to appoint a successor to Snyder. She said she is "reasonably sure" that the council will call for a special election.

Ferraro Wants Latino

However, Councilman John Ferraro, who plans to run for mayor, said today that he is "so anxious to have a Hispanic in that seat, I'd like to see us appoint someone of the quality of a Lou Moret." Moret was one of Snyder's opponents in last summer's recall election.

Snyder was the council's biggest fund-raiser by the mid-1970s and said he was seriously considering running for mayor, county supervisor or even congressman.

But his political fortunes began to shift in the late 1970s and early 1980s. In 1978 and 1979 he and Michele Noval, his second wife, went through a messy and public divorce and custody battle over their then-4-year-old daughter. Noval charged that Snyder beat her and he countered that she beat him. A settlement awarded custody to Noval, with generous visitation rights granted to Snyder.

One of several accidents in a city-owned car led to a drunk driving trial that ended in a hung jury in 1980.

And, in a major controversy that placed another crimp in his once unparalleled fund-raising, he was fined $14,000 by the Fair Political Practices Commission for admitted conflict-of-interest violations, including failing to publicly disclose about $142,000 in outside income.

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