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    Four Former Baker Council Office Staffers Out At City Hall; Mayor Says...

    (February 16, 2006) -- Four former staffers to recently-resigned 2d district Councilman Dan Baker are out at City Hall.

    They include Mark Taylor, who in fall 2005 took an extended leave of absence as Chief of Staff to then-Councilman Baker to serve as campaign manager for Mayoral candidate Bob Foster.

    LB's 2d Council district is vacant in City Hall's lobby photos of LB lawmakers

    Mr. Taylor continues as Foster's campaign chief but resigned his City Hall position at roughly the same time as LB Mayor Beverly O'Neill terminated three other staffers in Baker's City Hall office on Feb. 15. (O'Neill allowed a Baker field representative to remain).

    On Feb. 14, the City Council voted to proceed with plans for a special election to fill the 2d district Council seat vacated by Baker's abrupt resignation. Baker, who sought reelection to the Council in 2004 after an unsuccessful 2002 Mayoral run, resigned at the start of the Feb. 7, 2006 Council meeting after stating his unwillingness to disclose certain real estate investment activities he said are not legally required to be disclosed.

    LB City Attorney Bob Shannon has told he intends to refer certain Baker-related matters to CA's Fair Political Practices Commission (CA's political watchdog agency) for further action as that agency may deem appropriate.

    Responding to an inquiry from, Mayor O'Neill said LB residents should not infer more from her Feb. 15 termination action beyond her desire to have staff chosen by her while she oversees 2d district administrative activities until voters choose a new Councilmember in June.

    "It's not unusual for a new Councilperson to bring in their own staff, and to have staff changes as responsibilities change. That's what I did," Mayor O'Neill said, speaking on a cell phone while navigating late afternoon LB traffic. " I felt that with the new responsibility I have [to handle 2d district administrative functions until voters choose a Councilperson] I felt I should have a staff there that I bring in," she said.

    Mayor O'Neill said she told three staffers she'd "give them a letter of termination, or if they wanted to resign, that was OK too. "Three took the termination letter...and one [Mr. Taylor] I was previously told would resign," she said.

    We asked Mayor O'Neill, "Should residents infer more from this?" Mayor O'Neill replied, "No, and I'd appreciate it if you'd say that."

    In late 1998, when a Council office vacancy was created by then-Councilman Alan Lowenthal's election to the Assembly, several of his staffers continued to serve in the Council office during the interim Mayoral administrative period; most of Councilwoman Jenny Oropeza's staff followed her to Assembly office positions.

    Word of the developments spread rapidly after several 2d district residents showed up for a regularly scheduled midday 2d district informational meeting (held on the third Wednesday of each month in coordination with the 2d district Council office) and were told that the meeting was cancelled and most 2d district Council office staffers were gone.

    At midafternoon, City Hall issued a release making no reference to the departure of Baker's former office staffers, noting that "the Mayor's Office assumed the responsibilities for the Second District office and its employees until a new Councilmember takes office."

    Mayor O'Neill chose Dan Gooch to serve as 2d district interim Chief of Staff. Mr. Gooch is a 32-year veteran of LB city management (including Financial Management, Administrative Officer in Public Works, Gen'l Superintendent of Refuse, Street Sweeping & Sewer Divisions and Administrative Mgr. for the Fire Dept.). He's also a member of LB's Golf Hall of Fame and has a lengthy involvement with LB's Golf Commission.

    The release said Mr. Gooch retired in June 2004 and lived in the 2nd District for 45 years. Mayor O'Neill said in the release that Mr. Gooch "brings a wealth of experience to this interim position, as well as a great deal of personal knowledge of 2nd District issues, which will serve the District and its residents well during this transition time. We want the residents of the Second District to feel confident that, through the combined efforts of Mr. Gooch, his interim team and my office, their needs and issues will be addressed."

    By midafternoon Feb. 15, the only listed staff on City Hall's website for the 2d district Council office were interim Chief of Staff Gooch and field rep Rick McCabe.

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