Hogin takes golden parachute

Following the announcement Monday of City Attorney Christi Hogin’s resignation, council members and city officials offered differing views on the terms of her departure.

The council in closed session Monday voted 3-2 to pay Hogin $227,000 upon her resignation.

“Since the council meeting, I’ve received numerous calls on this issue,” Councilman Harry Barovsky said Tuesday. “It seems the perception is we gave Christi Hogin two choices: be fired or take the money. It’s unfortunate that this has happened in the midst of the city attorney’s investigation of campaign violations. As one of the callers said, ‘It smells like something is rotten in Malibu.'”

Barovsky and Councilwoman Joan House cast the dissenting votes. “We voted against paying $227,000 to get rid of a perfectly good city attorney,” Barovsky said.

“It had absolutely nothing to do with the campaign finance suit,” said Councilman Tom Hasse. “We’ve had numerous performance evaluations, about six or seven meetings. Nancy McClelland represents the city on this, and they have talked for about two or three weeks on this.”

Hasse said there was no mass exodus of city staff nor any concerted effort to force staff members to resign. “Anybody who tries to attribute that to the events of last night does not know what he or she is talking about,” Hasse said. “There have obviously been differences between council and staff. There have been many disputes, long before I was elected to the council, between past councils and city staff. One such dispute in 1996 resulted in the council firing the city manager. That is not the case in this instance.”

House, who said she strongly opposed the move for Hogin to resign, called her a consummate professional. “If we offer the staff two years’ pay to leave, I suspect there would be a mass exodus. The amount of money we are spending to pay off our city attorney is shameful. That money should be used for projects like Dial-A-Ride, parks, a senior center and wildlife rescue,” she said. “Revenge is getting very expensive.”

Councilwoman Carolyn Van Horn would not discuss any motive for the action or details of Hogin’s contract with the city. “We pretty much abided by the contract,” she said. “I have no further comment.”

City Manager Harry Peacock said the news came as a surprise to him. “I did not know that announcement was going to be made last night. I have no knowledge of the terms and conditions of her resignation. She does have a contract with the city, but I don’t know the details.”

Hasse said he feels the council has made no effort to purge any staff members. “We have 35 full-time staff members. Council only hires and fires three: city manager, city treasurer and city attorney.”

Hasse declined to disclose what was discussed in closed session, but said, “I think the result is beneficial to the city of Malibu, City Attorney Christi Hogin and the city government as a whole. We now have the opportunity to look anew at our legal situation in terms of personnel and in terms of policies concerning the city attorney’s department.”

Hogin said, “I’m leaving Friday. I’ve been here for a very long time and I feel good about the work we’ve done and our accomplishments. The office is alive and successful. I think we’ve done a good job of playing our role in the government.”

Asked about her plans for the future, she replied, I’m toying with the idea of hanging out a shingle and seeing if that’s a successful way to balance my career and my life. I’m in a wonderful scary moment where anything is possible. I’m going to wait and see what the world has to offer.”

Hogin remains as a consultant to the city until Jan. 2000 to assist whoever is hired as the city attorney or interim city attorney. None of the legal work is going to be dropped or court dates missed. Hasse said, “I’m pleased she has agreed to stay on to assist.”

“I’m ready to move on,” Hogin said. “We’re hoping for a seamless transition, and I’m going to try to make sure that occurs.”

It is generally understood that Hogin’s contract was not written for a specified length of time nor does it include the terms of her departure. She would have been entitled to reimbursement for unused sick leave and vacation pay, but she could have been let go at any time, one city official said.

Mayor Walt Keller did not return calls to The Malibu Times Tuesday.

Peacock said the council has scheduled a special meeting on building codes for next Wednesday night. “They’ve added an agenda item about appointing an interim city attorney,” he said. “I don’t know if there are any names on the list.”

The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

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