Judge Refuses to Block Mehta's Firing

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A Superior Court judge on Monday refused Ravi Mehta's request to block his firing as Anaheim's special prosecutor.

"I just don't have a problem that you're indispensable," Judge Tully H. Seymour told Mehta. The judge added that he was not convinced that "all these bad things will happen if you're not retained."

Mehta said he would take his petition to the 4th District Court of Appeal.

"I think he's dead wrong," Mehta said. "I believe the judge didn't even consider the conflict-of-interest issue."

Mehta was hired by the council in September to investigate possible campaign finance law violations by some council members and others during the 1996 municipal election.

But when his bill to the city reached $118,000, which some council members and residents considered excessive, he was fired March 17. Derek G. Johnson, an Irvine attorney and former deputy district attorney, was hired to replace him.

In his petition to the court, Mehta charged that the council lacks the authority to fire the special prosecutor, that the firing constitutes an obstruction of justice, and that the vote is void because of a conflict of interest on the part of council members Lou Lopez and Shirley McCracken, who voted to remove him.

Mehta said in court papers that he was investigating Lopez for alleged campaign law violations. Because he had already investigated McCracken, who settled under a civil agreement and paid the city a $6,500 fine, Mehta charged that "both these council members were disqualified . . . on conflict-of-interest grounds, and the vote was void."

Cristina Talley, Anaheim's senior assistant city attorney, argued that the council was within its powers to fire Mehta with or without cause.

Johnson will take over a pending case against Mayor Tom Daly, his treasurer, Debra Daly, and former councilman Irv Pickler. Mehta has charged them with misdemeanor violations of campaign finance laws. Their arraignment is scheduled for today in Municipal Court in Fullerton.

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