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State’s Embattled Dry Cleaning Board Fires Its Director

Times Staff Writer

The Board of Dry Cleaning and Fabric Care, an obscure state agency threatened with extinction, on Monday fired controversial Executive Director Michael Siegel and elevated Judith Husted, the agency’s second in command, to handle his duties for the next three months.

The board has been under fire for more than a year by Assemblyman Ross Johnson (R-La Habra), who has authored a bill to abolish the $900,000-a-year agency, which regulates about 6,500 dry cleaning facilities.

The Assembly easily passed the measure last year, and now it is pending in the Senate Business and Professions Committee.

Meeting at a hotel near Los Angeles International Airport, the board voted 4-0 to fire Siegel.

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Siegel, 38, who has run the agency for the last 20 months, was criticized for being too “enforcement-minded.” He had been involved in a dispute over whether surety bonds, which are required for licensing dry cleaning establishments, could be replaced by personal guarantee bonds.

In the last two years, several dry cleaning merchants have been jailed for non-compliance with state law. Earlier this month Siegel sent letters to dry cleaning license applicants telling them that the personal guarantee bonds were illegal, a decision he said was based on state law.

Board President Ardith Lee Bigelow said Siegel’s termination was due to Siegel having “over-stepped his authority as an employee. He was not working on behalf of the board.”

The board interviewed two other candidates to succeed Siegel but decided to promote Husted on an interim basis until the board knows whether it will survive.

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Times staff writer Kenneth F. Bunting contributed to this story.


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