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Outrageous Back-Room Deal

Earlier this month, when he found the Board of Supervisors had conspired to disenfranchise Los Angeles County’s 2 million Latinos during its last redistricting, U.S. District Judge David V. Kenyon gave the supervisors a chance to redeem themselves by drawing boundaries that would meet the demands of equity and law.

Wednesday, minutes before the judge’s deadline, the majority--Mike Antonovich, Deane Dana and Pete Schabarum--gave the court a plan whose only impressive feature was its breathtaking contempt for the public interest.

In an attempt to create a district with a Latino majority, while still maintaining the current board’s five-seat configuration, the supervisors simply have gerrymandered a 3rd District. Not only are its boundaries geographically absurd, but it also contains a popular, well-financed incumbent, Ed Edelman, who will be difficult for any challenger to unseat. Judge Kenyon now will have to draw rational districts himself--a process that probably will begin with expansion of the board to seven or more members.

The other act of malice committed by the board’s majority Wednesday may be harder to undo. In a secret 3-2 vote, the supervisors agreed to immediately pay its law firm, Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft, $500,000 to represent a “third-party citizen,” who will appeal or “collaterally attack” Kenyon’s ruling all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. The secret pact “designates (retiring) Supervisor Peter F. Schabarum or his delegate as the citizen who shall pursue the litigation.” If the law firm, which also is pressing the board’s own appeal of the ruling, is found to have a conflict of interest, Schabarum simply will be allowed to take the public’s money and hire the lawyer of his choice.

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This back-room deal obviously is aimed at blocking a legally elected board from ending the wasteful appeal of Kenyon’s ruling upon which the current majority has embarked. This cynical, secretive, ruthlessly self-interested raid on public funds is without precedent. Recall would not be too strong a step to take against those who carried it out.


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