Hoping to end a potentially divisive confrontation with Los Angeles Police Chief Willie L. Williams, several members of the City Council talked with him Tuesday about withdrawing his $10-million claim against the city, hoping to come up with a rough draft of a deal by this morning, sources close to the informal negotiations said.
Most of those involved declined to comment publicly about the closely guarded talks out of concern that publicizing them would harm efforts to persuade Williams to drop the claim.
But several sources said a "range" of council members, from supporters to critics, were talking directly with Williams, encouraging him to abandon the claim. Williams has said his privacy was invaded when confidential documents were leaked after an investigation into the circumstances of his receipt of free accommodations at a Las Vegas hotel-casino.
"The chief is amenable" to dropping the claim "if he gets a genuine opportunity to start with a clean slate," said Councilman Nate Holden, one of Williams' strongest supporters on the council. Holden, who earlier Tuesday held a news conference to complain about a segment on CBS' "60 Minutes" Sunday as a "hatchet job" on the chief, declined to say how giving Williams "a chance to start over fresh" could be accomplished.
But another source said one option under consideration was a promise that if Williams dropped his claim, neither the claim nor the Las Vegas investigation that led to it would be considered in his performance reviews when it came time to decide on renewal of his contract.
The Police Commission, which initiated the investigation and then reprimanded the chief for not being truthful about the terms of his Las Vegas visits, has the authority to decide whether his contract should be renewed when it expires in two years.
But a majority of the council can override commission decisions, as it did when it overturned the panel's reprimand in June.
The Police Commission met in a closed session about the chief's claim Tuesday, but President Deirdre Hill declined to say what it discussed. She added that she had "not been a party to [individual council members'] negotiations, whatever they may be."
Through a spokesman for the LAPD, Williams declined to comment. His attorney, Melanie Lomax, could not be reached Tuesday. A day earlier, she said she knew "of no proposals, developments, communications or conversations of council people with the chief."
Several sources said pressure was building on council members to reach some sort of general agreement before a closed-door session this morning when the council will consider what to do about the claim and whether it should hire outside legal counsel to handle the matter.
"If there is at least an agreement in concept, details can be worked out over the next few days or so," a source close to the negotiations said.
The talks came amid a growing sense that even Williams' supporters on the council were running out of patience.
"The ball is still in the chief's court," said Councilman Rudy Svorinich Jr., who added that he was not a party to the talks with the chief. "He can still make this go away, and I hope and pray that he does. It all hinges on what happens over the next 24 hours."
Councilman Marvin Braude said he still supports the chief and wants to see him stay in Los Angeles, but believed that it was "inappropriate" for Williams to threaten legal action.
"I understand why he did it, but I think it competes with his responsibilities in serving the city," added Braude, who said he has not spoken with Williams in the last few days.