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Mad and Madder

Many a memorable quote has come out of the sexual harassment trial of Los Angeles City Councilman Nate Holden. The one that best summed up the case was from Assistant City Atty. Wilma Pinder: “Dumb and Dumber,” she said. From the viewpoint of the taxpayers--all of us picking up the tab of about $1 million for this shameful spectacle--the appropriate words might be “Mad and Madder.”

Holden was exonerated Monday in Superior Court. Judge Raymond D. Mireles, in a non-jury trial, dismissed plaintiff Marlee M. Beyda’s claims that Holden made unwanted sexual advances and forced her to touch his genitals. But it’s not over. Still another woman is suing Holden and the city in a sexual harassment case. As money for more police goes wanting, as parks deteriorate, Los Angeles will dig a little deeper to continue to pay to defend Holden. That’s because City Atty. James K. Hahn’s office ruled state law requires public agencies, with few exceptions, to pay the legal fees of employees such as Holden. One of the exceptions is if “the act or omission was not within the scope of his or her employment” (italics added).

Some police officers have been denied legal representation because of the egregious nature of the acts committed; the City Council refused to pay attorney’s fees for four officers involved in the Rodney King beating because it was deemed they had operated outside the scope of their employment. But unlike police officers and other employ-ees, council members are not subject to disciplinary reviews that might provide the facts needed to deny legal representation, nor is there any council equivalent of the ethics committee that ruled against then-Sen. Bob Packwood in a harassment case.

Holden admitted asking Beyda, then his receptionist, to his Marina del Rey apartment after hours, where she massaged him as he lay shirtless on a bed. Clearly this case cries out for ethical re-examination by the City Council.

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The picture that Beyda and some others painted raises questions as to whether the councilman’s office was run by aging would-be Lotharios who substituted “darling” for women’s names. The judge ruled that Beyda did not prove her case, but this episode should force reforms that ensure that soap operas of this sort will never again be played out at taxpayer expense.


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