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Riley Served With Recall Papers; Move Against Wieder Delayed

Times Staff Writer

The senior member of the Orange County Board of Supervisors was formally served with recall papers Wednesday, but the recall effort against a second supervisor--politically embattled Harriett M. Wieder--was delayed. An opponent, however, suggested that she “think about her career.”

The recall notice papers presented to Supervisor Thomas F. Riley at Wednesday morning’s board meeting accuse him of consistently favoring developers at the expense of others in the county. The 75-year-old Riley declined immediate comment but has said in the past that the threat of a recall drive did not frighten him.

Opponents said they will also seek Wieder’s recall. But they said they decided not to serve those papers Wednesday because of other controversies swirling about the board chairman, who is seeking the Republican nomination in the 42nd Congressional District race.

“Why kick her when she’s down?” said slow-growth activist Tom Rogers, a leader of the recall effort. “There’s been too much in the paper already. She’s a dead duck.”

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Huntington Beach resident Doug Langevin, saying he was referring to Wieder’s acknowledgement that she has lied about having a college degree, and to the controversy over her April 27 vote on the Laguna Laurel Development agreement between the county and the Irvine Co., said: “I think she needs to do some soul-searching. . . . The (development) issues raised as the basis for a recall are far too important to become diluted in this deluge of personal political accusations.”

Wieder has been embroiled in a controversy about whether she graduated from Wayne State University in Detroit. Her official biographies have asserted that she did graduate, but she admitted that she did not after the error was disclosed by a political opponent. She has characterized the erroneous information as an unintentional mistake that should have no bearing on her congressional campaign.

Debate over the issue intensified Wednesday, however, after it was reported that Wieder had made the college-degree claim under oath during a legal deposition taken last fall and had signed a transcript of those proceedings as recently as April 4.

‘Bleed,’ Wieder Asks

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Asked about the matter Wednesday, Wieder said she had “already responded” and added, “What do they want to see me do, bleed?”

In a related development, Deputy Dist. Atty. Gregg Prickett said Wednesday that he was unaware of the circumstances of Wieder’s testimony in the deposition when questioned about it Tuesday.

Prickett, who had been asked if Wieder might have committed perjury, said Wednesday that he was addressing only a hypothetical situation and would have no further comment, because the case has not been presented to the district attorney.

Wieder, 67, is also a target of a complaint filed this week with the district attorney’s office alleging that she violated a county campaign finance-reform ordinance by voting on Irvine Co. development agreements after a company-sponsored political action committee contributed $2,500 to her congressional campaign.

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The ordinance prohibits supervisors from voting on matters affecting contributors who give their campaigns more than $1,739 during any four-year period. The complaint, filed by the woman who spearheaded the drive for the county ordinance, asks that Wieder’s swing vote on the Irvine Co.'s Laguna Laurel development agreement be rescinded.

Asks Her to Refrain

Wednesday, as he told Wieder of the delay in the recall drive against her, Langevin asked her to reschedule a board vote on the Laguna Laurel development agreement and then refrain from voting on the matter.

If Wieder fails to announce her intention to do that, Langevin said, the recall papers will be served.

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Wieder later said that she had been advised that she cannot change her vote on the development agreement, and that she would not anyway.

When asked about suggestions Wednesday by some of her critics that she should resign, Wieder said: “For what?”

“I have apologized for lying about the degree and admitted that was wrong,” she said, “but I have no apologies for my vote on the Laguna Laurel agreement.

“I voted for the good of the whole county and I’m not going to go back and change that for political expediency.”

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County Counsel Adrian Kuyper said a reconsideration of the Laguna Laurel development agreement could not be scheduled without the approval of the rest of the supervisors. Even if that happened, he said, no terms of the agreement could be changed without the consent of the Irvine Co.

The ordinance that made the agreement possible does not go into effect until May 26, Kuyper said, but a signed contract, which he said the agreement constitutes, cannot be changed unless both parties agree.

The Laguna Laurel agreement would allow 3,200 housing units, a shopping district and a golf course on about 900 acres just north of Laguna Beach in the northern section of Laguna Canyon.

The recall papers against Riley were read aloud to him at the board meeting Wednesday by Richard Harris, chairman of the Laguna Canyon Conservancy.

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The Laguna Beach-based environmentalist group has been one of the most outspoken critics of the Laguna Laurel development agreement.

Harris said the conservancy has joined a coalition that wants both Wieder and Riley removed from office. Slow-growth activist Rogers said the coalition also includes people from several cities in the county who are active in homeowner associations.

Riley said he had not had a chance to read the recall notice because it was handed to the clerk of the board and not him.

“She has to log it and put it into the system,” he said.

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Once he examines the charges against him, he said, he will comment on the them directly.

He reiterated Wednesday that he has been responsive to his constituency and votes his conscience.

Riley now has seven days to respond to the recall notice. Once petition language is approved by the registrar of voters, the proponents of the recall must gather signatures from 10% of the voters in Riley’s district.

They have 160 days to do that. If the signatures are collected quickly enough, the matter could appear on the November ballot.

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