El Segundo Mayor Jack Siadek has denied charges that he betrayed the city when he told Los Angeles International Airport commissioners last December that the City Council favored a proposal to run scheduled flights out of the airport's Imperial Terminal.
Several charter companies currently run flights out of the terminal, which the city has fought to close because of noise. The terminal is directly across Imperial Highway from the city's northern boundary.
Starting Sept. 8, MGM Grand Aviation plans to have up to 10 flights a day to Newark, N. J., and London, although city officials said they will challenge that plan at an airport board meeting in early September.
Siadek's role in discussions with both MGM Grand Aviation and airport officials over the last nine months came under fire at a July 28 public hearing before the city's airport noise committee and at last week's council meeting. Several councilmen said they had learned long ago of Siadek's appearance before the LAX board last Dec. 3, but decided not to make an issue of it. Many residents, however, said they had just learned of it.
In an interview, Siadek denied accusations by Councilmen Carl Jacobson, Keith Schuldt and H. R. (Bob) Anderson that he did not have their support when he told LAX commissioners that the council approved MGM's plan as the best way for El Segundo to control aircraft noise at the Imperial Terminal.
Siadek said he will ask the council at its next meeting to divulge contents of closed discussions last year to back up his claim that the council agreed with him. Councilman Alan West, a frequent Siadek ally, agreed that the mayor had expressed the council's position at the time.
Closed Hearing on Noise
The sessions were closed because of a city lawsuit against LAX concerning airport noise. The suit was later dropped. But Siadek said this week that the city is preparing new legal action to fight airport noise unrelated to MGM Grand Aviation. And Planning Director Lynn Harris said city officials will ask airport commissioners to delay MGM service out of Imperial because of what she called an "inadequate" environmental impact study done by the airline. MGM Grand Aviation had a five-year lease at Imperial approved by the airport board in April.
Siadek said Jacobson and other political opponents are whipping up a furor as the start of a campaign to unseat him in council elections next spring.
"I don't feel like I've been caught at anything," Siadek said. "I'm upset that my efforts in good faith have been turned around to allege that I did something wrong."
Jacobson said Siadek has dismissed all criticism in recent months as politically motivated.
"I'm trying to act in the best interests of the city," Jacobson said. "I wish others would do the same."
Siadek joined in a unanimous council vote last week opposing MGM's use of the terminal, saying that he changed his position when he realized in June that MGM and airport officials did not intend to live up to assurances that included phasing in quieter airplanes to replace noisy jets and limiting use of the terminal to MGM flights.
But Mark Nathanson, MGM Grand vice chairman, held firm this week to a statement he made at the July 28 hearing: That Siadek specifically told him before the Dec. 3 LAX commission meeting that the council had voted 3 to 2 in favor of an MGM plan that included landscaping work on Imperial Highway near the terminal and efforts to minimize aircraft noise.
"It's inconsistent when the mayor of a city gives me his word that we will be allowed use of the terminal, that the city passed a resolution, then changes his story," Nathanson said in an interview. "It's a strange development."
Said Council 'Approved'
Minutes of the LAX commissioners' meeting show that Siadek did not mention a vote on Dec. 3 but said the council "approved" the proposal.
"It's a pure case of misunderstanding," Siadek said in response to Nathanson. "I'm dismayed that communications weren't clearer. I never said there had been a resolution. My only comment to him was that he would be able to get a 3-2 vote in favor of the proposal."
Nathanson also said the MGM plan is no different today than it was when he met with Siadek late last year, and there are no immediate plans for quieter planes.
"There's no possible way there could have been any kind of misunderstanding," Nathanson said. "The airplanes had already been bought. We have not varied from our original plan for one second."
City officials said their early information on the MGM plan came almost exclusively from the mayor and they could not say whether it had changed.
Brian O'Rourke, a city resident who grilled Siadek at last week's council meeting on his dealings with MGM, said there was the appearance of "some type of agreement" between Siadek and the airline.
Siadek said he has had no improper dealings with MGM and denied rumors that he was wined and dined by MGM owner Kirk Kerkorian in Las Vegas, saying "I've never met the man." Nathanson also said that Siadek had never met with Kerkorian.
Councilman Schuldt joined Jacobson in condemning Siadek's appearance before the LAX commission and said the council has consistently opposed any flights out of the Imperial Terminal. Jacobson said it is essential that the contents of the closed sessions be revealed because they will prove the council's opposition to the plan.
"We were shocked when we found out he was at the meeting," Schuldt said. "All of us. He had no business being there. Jack (Siadek) goes off doing a lot of things he wants to do on his own.
"His motivation is ego, dealing with big shots."
Councilman West gave a different view, saying that Siadek conveyed the wishes of the council when he initially supported the MGM plan.
"His assessment of the council's feeling was correct," West said, adding that divulging closed discussions might be inappropriate.
"There's an election coming up. Some of this is politically motivated. My point, and the mayor's, was that if MGM had agreed to run a couple of flights a day out of the terminal it would be better than unlimited flights."
Councilman Anderson could not be reached for comment this week but expressed disapproval of Siadek's position at last week's council meetings and the July 28 hearing.