After lobbying by the mayor's office and a fractious debate, the City Council postponed until today a decision on whether to review the creation of a $112,000-a-year Airport Department post that is being sought by one of Mayor Tom Bradley's closest aides.
The Los Angeles Airport Commission caught many airport and city officials by surprise on Nov. 27 when it authorized addition of a third deputy general manager who would oversee public relations, lobbying and environmental issues.
So far, only Philip Depoian, 48, one of Bradley's longest-serving City Hall aides, has expressed an interest in the post, which Councilwoman Ruth Galanter said may not be justified while the city struggles with a worsening financial crisis.
"We should be looking at some other way of accomplishing the same goals," said Galanter, who authored a proposal to invoke a City Charter amendment that would give the council authority to review the action taken by the mayor-appointed commission.
Councilwoman Joy Picus was more blunt in her assessment of the commission's move, saying, "It doesn't pass the smell test."
Other council members questioned Depoian's qualifications for the high-level position that would give him Civil Service protections he does not enjoy as the mayor's liaison to the Airport Department.
In an interview, department General Manager Clifton Moore acknowledged that Depoian "doesn't know a lot about airport stuff--but we're looking for ability to work with the community."
Picus, however, suggested that the job was created to promote the man who started out as Bradley's campaign aide more than 20 years ago.
Why else, she asked, did the mayor's office telephone Councilman Mike Hernandez on Monday asking that he vote against the proposal to invoke the Charter Amendment?
"Here's the mayor on the phone trying to get us to approve the action taken by the commissioners, who are appointed by the mayor," Picus said. "You want your fingerprints all over this, fine. But mine aren't going to be there."
Hernandez said it was Deputy Mayor Mark Fabiani who called him.
"Fabiani called me to give me the reasons why the position was created and to get my support for the position--Depoian was never mentioned," said Hernandez, who favored invoking the Charter Amendment so that "the public will know where we stand."
Bill Chandler, spokesman for Bradley, declined to say how many council members were contacted, but added, "The mayor will do whatever he can to ensure that the commission's decision is affirmed by the City Council."