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Council Seeks Some Distance From Holden

TIMES STAFF WRITER

If Nate Holden wants to tilt at windmills, his City Council colleagues want to make it clear that he is riding alone.

On Friday, six of them joined in a motion calling for a legal review to ensure that Holden’s quixotic quest to bring the Raiders back to Los Angeles doesn’t provoke a lawsuit against the city.

Meanwhile, council President John Ferraro took the unprecedented step of reminding Holden in writing that he speaks only for himself.

In addition, Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich, the Coliseum Commission president, sent a strongly worded letter to the mayor of Oakland denouncing Holden’s recent statements on the Raiders’ return as “outrageous” and indicating that the commission has no desire to see the team break its contract with Oakland to move back to Los Angeles.

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“I’m afraid that Mr. Holden has proceeded in a way that is questionable at best and reckless at worst,” said Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas, who introduced the council motion along with Joel Wachs and four others. “He has a right to say what he wishes, but don’t get us into a mess.”

Ridley-Thomas said the number of council members eager to sign on to the motion tells him that his colleagues also are concerned about potentially costly litigation.

“Loose canons on the deck will not be permitted to roll on at taxpayers’ expense,” said Ridley-Thomas, who is leading the effort to bring an NFL team to Los Angeles by revitalizing Exposition Park.

Even Mayor Richard Riordan got into the act Friday, telling a local radio station that he doesn’t want Raiders owner Al Davis back--ever.

“It’s not like he’s distancing himself,” said Noelia Rodriguez, the mayor’s spokeswoman. “He never got close to this in the first place.”

Holden, as usual, continued to go his own way. “Six councilmen are not going to shut me up,” he said. “The people have the right to know the truth.”

And the truth, according to Holden--and nobody else anybody can find--is that Raiders’ owner Davis is close to settling a lawsuit with the NFL, which will grant him rights to any pro football franchise in the Los Angeles media market.

The two sides are so close, Holden insists, that a federal court hearing set for late February has been delayed pending settlement negotiations.

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Not exactly, according to the NFL.

“The idea that a settlement was imminent was not the opinion of our attorneys,” said Greg Aiello, an NFL spokesman. “I don’t believe there’s been any change in that.”

Even so, City Council members worry that Holden’s tactics could lead to litigation. (Holden, however, says he has spoken to city attorneys who assured him he has done nothing--so far--over which the city could be sued.)

Holden fired off his own missive to Antonovich on Friday, demanding an apology for the “slanderous, misrepresentations” in the letter to Oakland Mayor Elihu Harris.

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“I consider you a good friend,” the councilman wrote. “You owe me an apology.”

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Antonovich was out of town Friday and could not be reached for comment, but an aide said the supervisor believed that it would be prudent for Oakland attorneys and city officials to be aware that Holden is speaking for himself.

Attorneys for the city of Oakland wrote to Holden last week warning him that the Raiders have a contract to play 13 more seasons in Oakland and that any intervention by Holden could lead to litigation.

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That warning was the impetus behind Antonovich’s letter, as well as one written by Ferraro, the council president.

“As president of the Los Angeles City Council, I am writing to remind you that your comments in connection with the possible relocation of the Oakland Raiders to Los Angeles do not reflect or represent a position of the city of Los Angeles in any manner,” Ferraro wrote, in a letter believed to be the first of its kind from the council president to another member. “Your statements are purely your personal views.”

The letter delighted Holden.

“They want it understood that I’m acting alone,” Holden said, chuckling. “I don’t want them involved. They don’t know anything. They’re lazy and they’re stupid. You can print that.”

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