We asked the question Thursday when Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa stepped over the foot-dragging City Council and announced 1,000 layoffs in an effort to erase the city's $218 million deficit: Does the mayor actually have the authority to let go of city employees? The mayor on Thursday said he did, but an internal City Attorney's office email leaked to the Los Angeles Times says no he doesn't.
Complicating things is the fact that the City Attorney's office has a horse in the race: Laying off 100 people inside that office is on the table as part of proposed budget cuts. The mayor's office, however, says it has "no intention" of targeting the office.
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"The mayor's authority extends only to 'departments, agencies and appointed offices'," Chief Deputy City Atty. Bill Carter wrote. "Although department heads and elected offices have the power independently to manage their personnel and budgets, including laying off personnel as they deem necessary, the mayor cannot compel such action. He certainly cannot compel it in this office."
The mayor's officer responded by stating that indeed it will compel departments to carry out his mission. Mayoral counsel Brian Currey told the Times, "He has said he is going to work through his department heads to effectuate transfers and layoffs, and we fully expect those managers to comply with the mayor's wishes."
The city is trying to pare back that deficit by the end of June because it will face another $400-million-plus hole at the start of the next fiscal year July 1. On Wednesday the City Council put off any action on the budget for 30 days, even though failure to do so costs $338,000 a day in extra red ink.
On Thursday the Mayor Villaraigosa appeared almost heroic when he announced the layoffs and other cuts.