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Fire Commissioner Who Feuded With Riordan Resigns

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Fire Commissioner Leslie Song Winner, a strident advocate for women and minority firefighters who withstood efforts by Mayor Richard Riordan to oust her, resigned Thursday.

Winner sharply criticized the mayor, saying the city “needs leadership that places appropriate value on the Fire Department, and that does not exist.”

Sources close to Winner said the veteran political consultant will focus on supporting potential candidates to run against Riordan in 1997.

In a telephone interview, Winner said only that she needs to spend more time on her political consulting and public relations business, but that she “would like to see a mayor who supports reform in the Fire Department and places value in the department’s services.”

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Winner was the most vocal Fire Commission critic of former Fire Chief Donald O. Manning, who resigned after months of city meetings in which he was criticized for the department’s failure to hire and promote women and minorities.

Winner said that Riordan--who asked for her resignation in April, two days after Manning quit--has neglected the Fire Department while concentrating on police issues.

A one-page statement released by Winner also included several thinly veiled swipes at the mayor. The mayor said Winner was “not a team player,” a charge Winner disputed in her statement.

“Because I spoke out for women and minority firefighters . . . some in City Hall called me ‘disruptive.’ That was a serious miscalculation by those who missed real issues,” she wrote.

Riordan never marshaled the City Council support needed to force Winner’s resignation.

Winner’s departure with three years left in her term upset some who backed her as she fought off Riordan’s push for her resignation last year.

“I’m extremely disappointed and worried about who will replace her,” said Isabel Rosas, a board member of the Affirmative Action Assn. for Women, a Los Angeles city employees group. “This is a bad time for her to be leaving with all of the issues coming to light in both the Fire Department and in California with the [anti-affirmative action] ‘California civil rights initiative.’ ”

Rose Garcia, president of the affirmative action group, said organizations representing minorities and women who work for the city want Winner replaced with a strong supporter of affirmative action.

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“The mayor needs to appoint commissioners who understand what affirmative action even is, which I don’t think he’s considered in the past.”

Winner, who managed the successful 1990 campaign of Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles), opened a public relations firm in December.

Riordan spokeswoman Noelia Rodriguez defended the mayor’s commitment to the Fire Department, saying: “Public safety is the No. 1 priority and firefighters are a key part of that.”

Rodriguez said the mayor continues to back lawyer Michael Yamaki, a former Police Commission and Convention Center Commission member he selected last year. Yamaki was not seated because of Winner’s refusal to quit.

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