Bid to Fire Special Prosecutor Fails

TIMES STAFF WRITER

An effort Tuesday to fire the city's special prosecutor Ravi Mehta failed for lack of council support.

Councilwoman Shirley McCracken made the proposal to turn over his investigation to the district attorney's office or a local lawyer, who would serve as prosecutor. Her effort failed for lack of a second.

Saying her plan would save the city money, McCracken expressed concern over Mehta's bill, which has grown to more than $100,000 for his investigations into suspected violations of state and local campaign contribution laws. Mehta has not submitted bills for January and February.

"The cost is excessive and growing with no end in sight," McCracken said. She compared Mehta's rate of $250 per hour with what city-employed prosecutors earn: about $51 an hour.

Instead, McCracken said, the city should have asked the state Fair Political Practices Commission, which Mehta formerly chaired, to handle the investigations for free.

No other city or county in the state has ever hired a special prosecutor to investigate suspected violations of campaign finance laws, according to the commission.

Councilmen Lou Lopez and Bob Zemel in September cast the votes to hire Mehta. On Tuesday night, residents presented both men with notices that recall campaigns have begun against them.

Mehta filed misdemeanor complaints in January against Mayor Tom Daly, his campaign treasurer and estranged wife, Debra Daly, and former Councilman Irv Pickler, alleging that they had breached campaign contribution laws. An arraignment is scheduled for Tuesday.

Former Councilman Frank Feldhaus and the Anaheim firefighters' political action committee last week agreed to settle the criminal charges they faced in civil court instead. The union's PAC and Feldhaus agreed to pay fines totaling $30,000 to the city.

Mehta also charged McCracken with campaign reporting errors, but she settled a civil lawsuit in December and paid the city a $6,500 fine.

Meanwhile, at Tuesday's council meeting, residents packed the chambers, some coming forward to call Mehta's investigations biased.

Shirley Grindle, longtime Orange County campaign reform activist who has been monitoring Anaheim's council elections since 1994, said it is "unbelievable that one individual can act as judge, jury and executioner."

"If you choose not to terminate Mehta's contract, then it is your duty to see that Mehta investigates and prosecutes all of the individuals involved with equal treatment," she said.

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