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Council's last-minute reward motion in Watts shooting criticized

June 5, 2012 |  2:39 pm

Holly Valadez stops by to pay her respects at a make-shift memorial for a year-old boy who was shot and killed while in the arms of his father in Watts.

The Los Angeles City Council’s decision to offer a $50,000 reward in response to the shooting death of a 1-year-old baby in Watts devolved Tuesday into a sharp exchange between council members and a longtime City Hall critic.

Councilman Joe Buscaino, whose district includes Watts, asked his colleagues to offer the reward to anyone who helps police track down the killer of Angel Mauro Cortez Nava, who was shot Monday night while in his father’s arms.

Although the reward offer was not on the regular meeting agenda, the council voted to add it at the last minute since the killing occurred after the agenda had been posted.

That drew criticism from audience member Wayne Spindler, who complained that council members have been relying too frequently on so-called “special” motions that allow them to vote on issues without warning the public.

Although he called the murder investigation a “noble thing to address,” he said the proposal should have been placed on the council’s next meeting agenda.

“Time and time again, I’ve seen this special motion procedure used for so many different things that no one really has a rule anymore,” he said.

Council President Herb Wesson shot back with his own criticism.

“Mr. Spindler, you must really enjoy hearing yourself speak. A 1-year-old child was killed last night…. You could have found a more appropriate time to make that statement. You just want to go home and watch yourself on television.”

When Spindler approached the podium to respond, Wesson pointed his finger at him and said: “Talk back and I’ll throw you out, OK? Just say one word.”

As security officers approached Spindler, Councilman Mitch Englander said he was “sick” that Spindler would criticize the use of the special motion procedure.

“A baby lost their life. Parents are now grieving. LAPD has asked for immediate help … and they need to shake the tree to get the leaves to fall,” he said.

The Ralph M. Brown Act, the state’s open meeting law, requires local government bodies to post their agendas no less than 72 hours in advance of their meetings.

However, it also allows city councils to add an item at the last minute if they make a determination that there “is a need to take immediate action” -- and that the need for action came up after the agenda was posted.

Buscaino’s reward motion passed on a unanimous vote.


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-- David Zahniser at Los Angeles City Hall

Photo: Holly Valadez stops by to pay her respects at a make-shift memorial for a year-old boy who was shot and killed while in the arms of his father in Watts. Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times.