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Alatorre to Resign Seat on MTA Board

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Richard Alatorre, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s first chairman and the most powerful advocate of extending its subway to the Eastside, confirmed Tuesday that he will resign from the agency’s board of directors at the end of July.

Alatorre said in an interview that he submitted his resignation to Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan, who appointed him to the MTA board and has remained loyal despite the councilman’s recent difficulties.

A federal grand jury has been investigating Alatorre’s personal finances and his activities at the MTA. The lawmaker said he plans to attend the MTA board’s July meeting, where a controversial issue in which he is directly involved is expected to be discussed again behind closed doors.

Alatorre wants the public to pay $7,500 for a criminal defense attorney who advised him to invoke his right against self-incrimination more than 120 times when he was questioned last March in a civil lawsuit filed against the MTA.

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Alatorre’s demand for help with his attorney fees sparked a heated discussion among MTA board members at a private executive session last Thursday, sources said.

The civil case was filed by a former transportation agency employee, LeRoy H. Graw, who contends that he was fired for refusing to recommend awarding a $65-million Eastside subway construction contract to Alatorre’s allies.

During the deposition, Alatorre refused to answer questions about Graw’s firing or about his relationship with the East Los Angeles Community Union (TELACU) and whether it paid for installation of a Spanish tile roof on the councilman’s Eagle Rock home.

“Upon the advice of counsel, I assert my 5th Amendment privilege,” Alatorre said repeatedly.

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In the interview, Alatorre said he is entitled to be represented by a criminal attorney at public expense. “If I wasn’t a member of the board, nobody would be deposing me. I think it is only right,” he said. “But you know what, I’m not going to die over it. You’re talking about $7,000. It’s not the end of the world. Hopefully, it will be resolved, but if it isn’t, I’ll have to pursue other avenues.”

During the MTA board’s closed-door session, sources said, several board members objected to the payment of fees for a criminal defense attorney as inappropriate. A civil attorney paid by the MTA also was present at a deposition and at times intervened on Alatorre’s behalf.

On the eve of his retirement from public office, Alatorre said one of his few regrets is that the Eastside subway isn’t being built. He blames “politics and shortsightedness” for the stalled subway line. “All it would have taken would be digging one hole, and it would have been done,” he said.

As chairman of the MTA for its first three years and a board member since it was created, Alatorre has been a fierce supporter of multiple modes of mass transit. “While some make the argument that it is all about buses, others make the argument it’s all about rail. It’s not about that,” he said. “It’s about buses, rail and any other system that we can come up with to help move people.”

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