LA Councilman Won't Resign
Oct. 29, 1997
LOS ANGELES (AP) _ A city councilman pleaded guilty to felony cocaine possession but defied calls for his resignation, and described one critic _ Mayor Richard Riordan _ as a ``gutless wonder.''
Councilman Mike Hernandez pleaded quilty Monday to the charge stemming from his August arrest.
Riordan said that it sends a ``terrible, terrible message'' for an elected official to remain in office after admitting to a drug crime. He also called rehabilitation from Hernandez's admitted drug and alcohol addictions a ``full-time job.''
Hernandez, who was elected to the $98,000-a-year job in 1991, said Riordan had seemed supportive during a private meeting just before the news conference, even though Hernandez declined to resign.
``Then, when he got in front of the press he was very specific. When he came out of our meeting, he was a different man. He was a politician.
``He ambushed us,'' said Hernandez, who represents a poor and mostly Hispanic district near downtown. ``I think the mayor is a gutless wonder.''
Noelia Rodriguez, Riordan's spokeswoman, said the mayor told Richardson this his request would be made public.
``The confusion is not in the mayor's camp,'' she said.
The feuding is the latest rift at City Hall over Hernandez. Most members of the 14-member council have kept their opinions to themselves. But on Tuesday, Hal Bernson became the fourth council member to publicly urge his resignation.
``I just feel it would be best for him, for his family, his district and the city to step down,'' Bernson said.
Hernandez, 45, was arrested on a charge of cocaine possession two months ago after a law enforcement task force observed him buying cocaine 10 times. He came back to work three weeks ago after a voluntary stint at a drug treatment center, and colleagues seemed to accept him warmly.
Then last week, two white council members, Laura Chick and Mike Feuer, publicly asked Hernandez to resign. That prompted accusations of racism from Nate Holden, a black member.
Councilman Rudy Svorinich also has called for Hernandez's resignation.
His guilty plea on Monday would automatically have led to his ejection from office. However, he was assigned to a drug diversion program and the conviction will be expunged if he completes it.