Politics, government and public life for Southern California

Former Vernon official fights city and CalPers to keep his $500k annual pension

City of Vernon

Eric Zassenhaus/KPCC

Vernon is a small town in L.A. County with a lot of industry and few residents. Former city manager Bruce Malkenhorst was paid more than $900,000 annually.

The man who became famous for collecting the highest public employee pension in California is now suing his former bosses in the city of Vernon.

Bruce Malkenhorst Sr. retired in 2005 as city manager of the small industrial city with fewer than 100 residents. His final salary was more than $900,000 annually. He was convicted the following year of using city money to pay for personal expenses.

After an audit, CalPers decided last year to cut Malkenhorst's annual payments to $115,000. CalPers said Vernon failed to properly document Malkenhorst's jobs and income to justify the half-million dollar annual payout.

Attorney Steven Berliner, who represents the city, says Malkenhorst is now suing Vernon claiming, "If he doesn't get his entire benefit through CalPers, the city should make up the difference. And that difference is approximately $30,000 a month."


Prison officials and inmate advocates discuss hunger strike

Pelican Bay SHU

Julie Small/KPCC

The Security Housing Unit at Pelican Bay State Prison is used for long-term solitary confinement.

California prison officials met Tuesday with advocates for inmates on the third week of a hunger strike. The action was taken to protest the long-term solitary confinement of thousands of inmates with ties to prison gangs.

Thirty thousand inmates joined the protest that began July 8. California’s Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation reported Tuesday that the number has dropped to 851. 

Department spokesman Jeffrey Callison described the two-hour talks between inmate advocates and high-ranking CDCR officials as "informational" only.  "It is not a negotiating or mediating session," he said.

Carol Strickman, an attorney with Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, described the meeting with officials as “cordial but frustrating" because, "they would not acknowledge the urgency of the situation.”


L.A.councilman supports Justice Dept. investigation into Trayvon Martin case

Mercer 15538

David McNew/Getty Images

Los Angeles City Councilman Bernard Parks says “There have been discussions as to whether these laws called 'Stand your ground' or 'Make my day' are appropriate."

South L.A. Councilman Bernard Parks on Tuesday introduced a resolution supporting the Department of Justice’s open investigation into the death of Trayvon Martin.

Parks said the resolution calls for the government to conduct an “objective and thorough” investigation into the circumstances of Martin’s death.

“There have been discussions as to whether these laws called 'Stand your ground' or 'Make my day' are appropriate as it relates to using common sense and judgment,” Parks said.

Martin was shot and killed by George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer, in Sanford, Florida. Zimmerman claimed self-defense, and last Saturday a jury found him not guilty.

Parks credits Earl Hutchinson, president of the Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable, for giving him the idea for the resolution. Hutchinson joined Parks at a press conference in support of the resolution’s passage.


Judiciary Committee debates legalization for Dreamers

Lucille Roybal-Allard Dream Act

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Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Los Angeles), accompanied by Dream Act supporters, says she won't vote vote for anything else than comprehensive immigration reform

The House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday discussed for the first time legalization for some undocumented immigrants — those brought to the U.S. as children by their parents. But Democrats say they won't support what they call "Dream Act lite." 

Even the toughest critics of immigration reform, such as Iowa Republican Steve King, empathize with the predicament of Dreamers — kids brought illegally to the U.S. by their parents. "It tugs at my heart, too," King said. But he doesn't support legal status for these young people, calling it "backdoor amnesty."

Other Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee, however, are willing to give it consideration.

Democrats have pushed for the Dream Act for more than a decade. But in this instance, they're saying "no."

L.A. Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard stood in a room filled with Dreamers, saying she'd vote for nothing less than comprehensive immigration reform. "Instead of separating parents from their children," she said, "let's bring the Dreamers and their parents out of the shadows."


California lawmakers pressure White House ahead of Vietnamese presidential visit

Ed Royce Vietnam

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Ed Royce (R-Fullerton), head of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, is joined by Reps. Alan Lowenthal (D-Long Beach) and Loretta Sanchez (D-Anaheim) to protest human rights abuses in Vietnam.

The President of Vietnam meets with President Obama later this week — just the second time a leader from that country has visited the U.S. since the end of the war. In anticipation, a bipartisan group of California lawmakers are pushing President Obama to pressure his Vietnamese counterpart to stop human rights abuses. 

At a Tuesday press conference, lawmakers cited a long list of alleged abuses: religious leaders tortured with electric prods, the arrest and beatings of three dozen young dissidents, bloggers – the closest thing Vietnam has to a free press – locked up.

Fullerton Republican Congressman Ed Royce, who heads the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said the Vietnamese government "continues to round up anyone who continues to speak the word 'democracy' or speak the word 'human rights.'" He said it’s the responsibility of the U.S. to live up to its agreements, including the one with Vietnam that requires progress on human rights.