Vernon spends heavily to hang onto cityhood

The city of Vernon -- population: about 90 -- has spent more than $54 million on lawyers in the last five years, as it fights to hang on to its cityhood.

The Los Angeles Times reports Vernon officials hope the outsize legal billings will help the tiny industrial city beat a bill in the state Legislature that would require municipalities with fewer than 150 residents to be discincorporated unless their county board of supervisors supports them.

Many of Vernon's residents are city employees or friends or relatives of city officials.

Critics, including Assembly Speaker John Perez, argue that because the handful of people allowed to live in Vernon are beholden to city government, it cannot have proper checks and balances. They say the city's legal spending is evidence that Vernon is essentially run for the benefit of its officials and their allies.

Last year the Times reported several Vernon officials were making hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.