In Office Only 2 Weeks : Misconduct Probe of New Mayor Ordered

Times Staff Writer

City Council members have agreed to investigate allegations of misconduct against Mayor Bob Davila, who has been in office only two weeks.

Council member Randy Barb, who made the charges against Davila, also tried to get the City Council to oust Davila as mayor, but the effort failed on a 2-2 vote. Barb was mayor in 1984-85 until he relinquished the position to Davila.

Barb charged that since Davila took the mayor's office July 3, he violated the City Charter on several occasions, including once when he directed a city employee to do him a favor and asked the employee not to tell other city officials about it.

Barb told the council during its regular meeting Monday that Davila's conduct had caused serious problems among city employees; he called on Davila to resign, but Davila refused.

Fine or Jail Possible

The charter says that council members are elected to set policy and that city employees are supervised by the city manager. A violation of the charter is a misdemeanor punishable by a maximum $500 fine and/or six months in jail.

"It's so petty," Davila said of the charges. "When this is over, somebody's going to have some red faces and some lawsuits" filed against them.

On a 3-1 vote, with Davila abstaining, the council voted to seek an independent investigation of the charges. Voting in favor of the investigation were council members Barb, Robert Cormack and Diane Boggs. Councilman James Santangelo voted against it. On the motion to depose Davila as mayor, Boggs abstained, Barb and Cormack voted in favor and Santangelo and Davila voted against it.

City officials said they would request that the district attorney's office conduct the investigation. Steven Sowders, head deputy of the district attorney's special investigations unit in Los Angeles, could not be reached for comment.

Letter in Spanish

Davila briefly discussed two incidents that he said prompted Barb's accusations. He said the first incident occurred when Davila could not read a letter to the mayor written in Spanish. He said he asked a city employee to translate the letter for him as a "favor."

The second incident, Davila said, occurred when he questioned other city officials about a recent newspaper article. He declined to discuss further details.

Barb could not be reached for further comment about the allegations. City Manager Don Davis declined to discuss the allegations against Davila, and City Atty. Carl Newton said he was unfamiliar with Barb's accusations.

Since his election to the council in 1982, Davila has clashed repeatedly with council colleagues and been on the losing end of numerous 4-1 votes. In recent weeks, Davila, who as mayor pro tem was in line to take the mayor's position, survived a behind-the-scenes attempt to bypass him as mayor, according to top city officials. The attempt involved Barb and Cormack, the senior council members, offering to support council member Diane Boggs as mayor, but Boggs backed Davila for the position.

Choices for Mayor

While Barb said earlier that he backed Davila for the position, Cormack, in an interview on Tuesday, said that he not only offered to support Boggs as mayor, but that he also offered to vote for Santangelo. Cormack said he was looking for the "best council person" for the mayor's job.

Cormack said council members should allow city "professionals to do their job," and should not secretly attempt to direct staff members. He declined further comment.

Santangelo, in an interview, said he was "disgusted" with Barb's actions.

"He (Davila) has been in office about two weeks. The charges are not anything that would warrant this type of embarrassment for him and his family," Santangelo said.

Davila and Barb face reelection next June.

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