Pressure is building on the Vernon City Council to rescind the hiring of Michael B. Montgomery as the full-time city attorney.

Last week, the Vernon Chamber of Commerce and ethics adviser John Van de Kamp criticized the hire, noting that the council voted without first putting the issue on the agenda — a major no-no.

Now, state Sen. Kevin De Leon is getting in on the act.

In a letter sent to the City Council today (and posted below), De Leon called the hiring “an egregious violation” of Vernon's earlier pledge of rectitude. The move, De Leon said, “created the appearance of self-dealing that the city cannot afford.”

From the looks of Vernon's council agenda for tomorrow, it appears the city received the message. City Administrator Mark Whitworth is recommending that the city rescind Montgomery's hiring and bring in a search firm to find a new city attorney. There's also a recommendation to do a thorough background check on the council's choice.

That's not a bad idea, considering that Montgomery has a long and colorful history of ethical scrapes. In 1996, he was indicted over allegations that he tried to buy an Assemblyman's vote on behalf of a card club. (The charges were later dropped.) In 1985, questions were raised about alleged conflicts of interest when Montgomery was appointed to the Fair Political Practices Commission.

Now, he's still a practicing attorney in good standing, and he currently serves as Walnut's city attorney. But he might not have the reputation that Vernon is looking for as it tries to put its corrupt history behind it.

De Leon, meanwhile, has good reason to be keeping a close eye on Vernon. Back in August, he pretty much single-handedly saved it from extinction. Assembly Speaker John Pérez was trying to disincorporate the city as a remedy for its corruption. The city fought back, and De Leon came in as a mediator, drawing up an elaborate reform plan that addressed corruption while allowing the city to stay alive. Pérez was not happy about that, to say the least, and he warned De Leon that he would be responsible for any future abuses.

Here's the letter:

Vernon Key Staff Ltr 10-31-11

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