Downey : Legal Fee to Be Arbitrated

The Downey City Council voted Tuesday to send a bill of $64,748 in attorney fees for the defense of former Councilman James S. Santangelo in his recent conflict-of-interest trial to the Los Angeles County Bar Assn. for arbitration.

The council voted 5 to 0 to let the bar determine whether the city should pay the bill. In a related matter, the council voted 4 to 0, with Councilwoman Diane P. Boggs abstaining, not to make any future payments. The city has paid $20,000 so far and has remaining bills of $64,748.

Santangelo, who was defeated in the June municipal election, is charged with misdemeanor conflict of interest in connection with his 1984 vote to expand Downey's redevelopment district. He owned property in the expansion area, which later was invalidated by a judge. A mistrial was declared in the case in February after a jury deadlocked 11-1 for conviction. A hearing is scheduled July 18 in Downey Municipal Court to determine if there will be a new trial.

Councilman Roy L. Paul, who made the motions to send the matter to arbitration and to stop any future payments, said he believes the bill is excessive for the defense of a single misdemeanor charge.

Paul said Santangelo's attorney, Leo B. Newton, had violated the terms of his contract with the city by not billing monthly. Newton was out of town and unavailable for comment, a spokeswoman said. Santangelo said he had no comment.

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