Santa Monica Lookout
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Elected City Attorney Measure Not Headed to Santa Monica Ballot
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Harding, Larmore
Kutcher & Kozal, LLP

Convention and Visitors Bureau Santa Monica


By Jonathan Friedman
Associate Editor

May 26, 2016 -- Santa Monica voters will not be deciding in November whether the City attorney should be an elected position as had been proposed by AIDS Walk Los Angeles founder Craig Miller.

Miller’s group Santa Monicans for Democracy issued a statement this week that it was not going forward with the process to get the measure on the ballot, which includes collecting at least 6,500 signatures from residents. ("Activist Wants City Attorney Chosen by Santa Monica Voters," February 22, 2016).

Group spokesman Ben Fordham told The Lookout a main reason for ending the pursuit was because the recent independent review of City officials’ behavior in the Elizabeth Riel affair confirmed “performance problems” with City Attorney Marsha Moutrie (an interpretation of the review not shared by everybody).

Another reason, Fordham said, was because there was a “strong sense that Ms. Moutrie is on her way out.”

Moutrie had a different take on why Miller and his group did not continue with the process.

“He was apparently unable to muster sufficient support,” Moutrie wrote in an email to The Lookout. “Or perhaps he realized that dissatisfaction or frustration with a particular official does not warrant reorganizing the structure of government.”

Miller had a lengthy battle with the City over the placement of nonprofit ads on the Big Blue Bus that was recently resolved in his favor. ("Santa Monica OKs Nonprofit Ads on Big Blue Buses," February 18,2016).

He told The Lookout in February that although he came up with the idea for the elected City attorney measure while still involved in the dispute, the two were not connected.

He took his criticism of Moutrie to City Hall on Tuesday, addressing the City Council prior to its scheduled review of her job performance.

“When you look at [Moutrie’s] body of recent work, I think it speaks pretty clearly to a problematic and troubled performance,” Miller said.

He was not the only Moutrie critic who addressed the council. Santa Monica Airport opponents, slow-growth activists and others told the council she had handled their issues of interest poorly.

Several people called for her dismissal.

“While I disagree with much of the commentary last night, I respect the right of all community members to comment on their government and on the performance of public officials,” Moutrie told The Lookout.

The council’s review of Moutrie’s job performance took place in private during a closed session that immediately followed the public comments. This is required by state law.

It appears Miller will continue with his public criticism of Moutrie.

In the statement announcing it would not further pursue the ballot measure, Santa Monicans for Democracy said it was introducing the City Attorney Accountability Project.

The group described the project as “an initiative that will shed light on the many missteps and failings of appointed Santa Monica City Attorney Marsha Moutrie.”

The project will include a website “as well as ongoing, constituent-driven monitoring of Moutrie’s job performance and close scrutiny of the selection of the next City attorney.”

Moutrie has been the appointed City attorney since 1993. She has not made any public statement that she plans to retire soon.

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