Whittier : Dumping Charges Dropped

A Whittier Municipal Court judge has ruled that the Los Angeles County district attorney's office cannot prosecute the City of Whittier on charges of illegally dumping hazardous materials--paint wastes and thinners--in the city yard.

Dist. Atty. Ira Reiner filed the charges against the city and four of its top officials last September after county health officials learned about the dumping in an open pit at the city yard in the 12000 block of Hadley Avenue. A cleanup of the yard has been ordered.

Municipal Court Judge Herbert Adden said that Reiner cannot prosecute the case because there is a potential conflict of interest. Adden ruled that existing service contracts between the county and the city in effect make Reiner and his staff employees of the city. Therefore, Reiner cannot bring legal action against the city or any of its workers. Adden has turned the case over to the state attorney general's office, but attorneys for the city say they will now ask Adden on March 31 to dismiss the entire case.

Reiner's office, however, plans to appeal Adden's ruling. Deputy Dist. Atty. Marcia Strickland said, "I believe (the decision) was entirely wrong . . . It was an abuse of discretion."

City officials hope the ruling is the first step toward dismissal of the case, which they contend should never have been filed. While acknowledging that the hazardous waste dumping had been going on, city officials say it has stopped and that they are prepared to take what ever measures are necessary to clean it up.

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