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Vice Mayor Calls For City Prosecutor With Subpoena Power in Oversight Model

Hampton presents model after Tornek, Kennedy requested he draft proposal last week

Published on Monday, July 27, 2020 | 3:14 pm
 

During the police oversight discussion On Monday, Vice Mayor Tyron Hampton proposed that the city separate the City Attorney and City Prosecutor as a way to guarantee independence and remove an independent auditor from the City Manager’s office.

Mayor Terry Tornek and Councilmember John Kennedy have proposed a commission and auditor that would report to City Manager Steve Mermell.
Here is what Hampton proposed:

It is recommended that the City Council engage a City Prosecutor and direct the City Attorney work with the newly engaged City Prosecutor to bifurcate the Office of City Attorney and re-establish the Office of City Prosecutor, as described in the Background section of this report.

BACKGROUND:

Currently, the Office of City Attorney performs the functions supporting the dual roles of City Attorney and City Prosecutor, leading to potential conflicts in certain cases. In short, the City Attorney role is to protect the City, its staff, its Commissioners, and elected officials while the City Prosecutor role is to enforce certain State and City laws.

These two roles are in direct conflict when the City, its staff, its Commissioners, or elected officials may have violated State or City laws.

Due to this potential for conflict, it is troubling that as currently constituted, the combined office of City Attorney/City Prosecutor performs, as one of its key services, providing advice and training to the Police Department. This raises questions of how the office who is responsible for providing legal training to our police officers may be looked to for holding those police officers accountable – especially in circumstances when the training they received may have been erroneous.

The combination of the City Attorney and City Prosecutor offices is within the Municipal Code, meaning that it is entirely within the authority of the City Council to divide these two roles and re-establish the Office of City Prosecutor – no Charter amendment is required.

As a further benefit, the role of City Prosecutor may house the role of an Independent Police Auditor (“Auditor”), as well. Doing so would allow the Auditor to report to the City Prosecutor, who will be an appointee of and report to the City Council. Thus, the City Council has the reporting authority required for the Auditor to perform the functions desired by many – provide truly independent oversight to the Police Department.

Finally, the City Prosecutor, by virtue of California State Law, will have the subpoena powers required for the Auditor to fully-engage in the role of providing independent oversight.

Again, as this re-establishment of the City Prosecutor’s office may be accomplished by amending the Pasadena Municipal Code, there is no need for a Charter amendment process to gain all of these benefits.

More particularly, the proper duties of the City Attorney will include:

• Represent the City Council and City officers in all matters of law pertaining to their office;
• Represent and appear for the City and its officers in all civil actions and proceedings;
• Attend meetings of the City Council, Community Development Commission, Fire and Police Retirement Board, and such other boards, committees, or commissions, as required;
• Prepare all necessary legal documents such as contracts, deeds, ordinances, and resolutions;
• Preparing responses to Public Records Act requests;
• Perform legal research and prepares opinions, as required;
• Make Risk Management recommendations as relates to the protection of City and its assets;
• Recommend the purchase/renewal of Citywide insurance program to include the City’s Operating Companies; and,
• Investigate and resolves all pre-litigation claims presented against the City; and,
• Track claims trends across all stages of dispute.
While the proper duties of the City Prosecutor will include:
• Lead support of community needs by leading the Domestic Violence, Nuisance Abatement; and School Truancy programs and coordinating City Resources Against Substandard Housing;
• Prosecute misdemeanor offenses occurring in the City of Pasadena arising out of violations of State or City law;
• Draft and file criminal complaints in Superior Court;
• Conduct office hearings, pretrial hearings, and court and jury trials; and,
• Represent the People of the State in certain motions, writs, and appeals.

If adopted by the City Council, this proposal will allow the City to gain several benefits in one action, by eliminating the potential conflicts associated with the City Attorney and City Prosecutor offices being combined ,establishing a robust City Prosecutor role, properly housing an Auditor within the City government and yet in a truly independent office, and enabling that Auditor with the subpoena powers required to perform the investigative functions required to deliver the citizen oversight being sought by so many.

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