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Attorney Rejects Ethics Panel’s Job Offer; Cites L.A.'s High Home Costs

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Los Angeles’ struggling Ethics Commission was dealt another setback when the panel’s top candidate for legal adviser declined the job, citing the high cost of Southern California housing.

Jonathan Rothman, an attorney for the state Fair Political Practices Commission in Sacramento, said Monday that he turned down the $84,000-a-year job offer because it would not cover the increased costs for relocating his family to Los Angeles.

“We were looking at an outlay of 100% to 200% more” for housing, Rothman said.

Rothman is the latest recruit for a top Los Angeles city or county government job to balk after scouting home prices here.

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In July, the leading candidate to head the Los Angeles Zoo withdrew from consideration for the $94,000-a-year post because of relatively high real estate prices. Earlier this year, the top candidate for Los Angeles County coroner accepted the $150,000-a-year job, but changed his mind after his wife came house-hunting.

Rothman, 37, a former Whittier College political science professor who earns $61,000 annually, had been courted for several months. Rothman said he could not afford housing in Los Angeles that would duplicate his family’s new, four-bedroom home near Davis. That home, he said, cost $160,000 and was conveniently located.

“I can leave home and be in the office in half an hour,” he said. “When you have young kids, time at home is important.”

Rothman’s withdrawal will delay by months the filling of a crucial position for the year-old ethics panel. “We’re back to the soliciting applications phase again,” said Mike Qualls, a spokesman for City Atty. James K. Hahn. Hahn’s office is providing temporary legal assistance to the commission and is in charge of hiring the ethics panel lawyer.

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The commission’s new legal guru will help chart a course of enforcement through a new, complex set of conflict-of-interest laws that have been called the nation’s toughest.

The ethics panel has been bedeviled by complaints that the laws are confusing, a lawsuit challenging their legality and the discovery of loopholes in enforcement provisions.

Also on Monday, the Ethics Commission sent the City Council proposals to deal with complaints about strict new financial disclosure requirements. The commission wants tough detailed disclosure requirements maintained for top officials to “restore public confidence in city government.” But it agreed that many lower-level employees should not be required to report personal financial information.

A competing city legislative analyst’s report urges the City Council to relax more of the disclosure requirements, including those requiring precise values of investments held by elected officials and their spouses. The council will consider both reports.

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