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Inglewood: Treasurer must pay attorneys' fees 

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TORRANCE (CNS) - Inglewood's city treasurer was ordered Sept. 20 to collectively pay the city, the mayor and other defendants nearly $50,000 in attorneys' fees and costs in the wake of a court ruling.

 

tHE court ruling trims some of the claims City Treasurer Wanda M. Brown brought alleging her salary was cut and that she was locked out of City Hall in retaliation for questioning the handling of the city's finances. 

In March, Torrance Superior Court Judge Deirdre Hill ruled onthe city's motion to dismiss plaintiff Wanda M. Brown's suit on retaliation claim and the emotional distress claim to the extent it was based on retaliation.

Wanda M. Brown.

The defendants then sought attorneys' fees, which they were entitled to under law. After hearing argu- ments Monday, Hill directed Brown to pay$41,260 in attorneys' fees and $8,645 in costs. 

 

The judge noted that in a sworn declaration, defense attorney Mira Hashmall stated that her law firm was selected to handle the dismissal motion "based on our skill and experience" and that the lawyer has long dealt with legal disputes involving governments. Hashmall defended the county against Vanessa Bryant's claims that her privacy was violated when emergency personnel took and shared photos of a helicopter crash site where Kobe Bryant, his daughter and seven others were killed in 2020. Vanessa Bryant was awarded $16 million. 

 

Hashmall also was part of the defense team for the city of Los Angeles in a lawsuit brought by Tennie Pierce, a Black Los Angeles Fire Department firefighter who alleged he was served a meal laced with dog food by his colleagues. The case settled in 2007 with the city agreeing to pay Pierce nearly $1.5 million.

 

Regarding the Brown suit, Hashmall previously said the city did not retaliate against Brown and has always treated her "in accordance with the regulations and procedures established in the city charter."

 

The 79-year-old Brown was first elected in 1987 as Inglewood's city treasurer and has maintained her post ever since, serving under three different mayors, including current Mayor James Butts. As part of her job over the years, she has invested more than $400 million in municipal funds and been directly responsible for generating more than $90 million in gross interest investment income for the city, according to the suit filed in August 2021. 

 

In April 2018, the mayor and City Council honored Brown for her 31years of outstanding service, the suit states. Butts called her the "alpha and omega" of investing city funds and explained how Brown oversaw the decline and resurgence of the city, the suit states. 

 

But in separate memos to Butts and the City Council in November 2019,Brown raised her concerns about the financial health of the city of Inglewood, including the overpayment of $77,420 to a city contractor, Pinner Construction, where for the first time in city history, the mayor had himself appointed as an author- ized city representative for payment of bond proceeds, the suit states. She also addressed the city's declining cash balance and the need to curb excess spending, according to the suit. 

 

"Unfortunately, Ms. Brown's concerns were completely ignored by Mayor Butts and his council," the suit states. Rather than address the financial issues with Brown, Butts denied any overpayment to the subject contractor and accused Brown of giving misleading financial information, the suit states. "The mayor and council then set about to silence and punish Ms. Brown by systematically reducing her job duties and ability to function as treasurer," the suit alleges. 

 

The defendants reduced Brown's salary by 83 percent, established a new investment committee and did not invite Brown to participate in the committee's meetings, reduced her once multimillion-dollar invest- ment authority to just $50,000 and denied her access to City Council  meetings, the suit states. The defendants also locked Brown and her staff out of City Hall and their offices and barred her access to the city's financial records, the suit states. 

 

Speaking during an August 2020 City Council meeting, Butts defamed Brown by saying that because she did not know the procedure for handling bad debts, he had no choice but to reduce her duties and her salary, according to the suit. In reality, all bad debt identification rests with the Finance Department, not the treasurer, the suit states. 

 

"The bad debt issue was merely subterfuge for (Butts') real reason for retaliating against Ms. Brown, which was to punish her for publicly voicing her concerns about the negative aspects of the city's finances and the impropriety of a particular payment by defendant ... Butts to one of the city's contractors," the suit states.  Butts and the City Council "intentionally engaged in this outrageous conduct with the goal of discrediting, defaming and causing substantial emotional injury and distress to (Brown)," the suit states.

Ex-USC dean Flynn pleads guilty

To federal bribery charge

in political corruption case

LOS ANGELES (CNS)A former dean of the USC School of Social Work pleaded guilty today to a federal bribery charge in a political cor- ruption case, admitting she funneled $100,000 through the university on behalf of then-County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas in hopes of earning his support for a lucrative social-work contract.


Marilyn Louise Flynn, 83, of Los Feliz, is scheduled to be sentenced
March 20, 2023. The federal bribery charge potentially carries a term of up to10 years behind bars.


Ridley-Thomas is scheduled to go on trial in the case Nov. 15. Accord-
ing to her plea agreement, in 2018, Flynn was trying to get an amend-
ment to a contract between the School of Social Work and the Angeles County Department of Mental Health involving services provided by USC

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Marilyn L. Flynn.

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Telehealtha clinic with USC students providing online mental health and counseling services to county-referred clients.


Prosecutors said the social work school was facing a multimillion-dollar budget deficit at the time.

 

According to prosecutors, Ridley-Thomasnow a Los Angeles City Council memberin April 2018 allegedly arranged for Flynn to funnel $100,000 from his campaign account through the School of Social Work to a nonprofit operated by his son, Sebastian Ridley-Thomas, who had recently resigned from the state Assembly amid a sexual harassment probe.


Prosecutors contend Mark Ridley-Thomas wanted to provide the money to support his son's nonprofit, but didn't want the funds linked to him or his campaign. So he agreed to provide the money to Flynn, who then sent $100,000 in university funds to the nonprofit, known as the Policy, Research & Practice Initiative.


Flynn and Ridley-Thomas allegedly concealed the arrangement from USC, knowing it would have violated university policy, prosecutors said.


After the money transfer was completed, Ridley-Thomas allegedly set up a meeting in May 2018 between Flynn and a high-level county official to discuss moving forward with the amendment Flynn was seeking on the Telehealth contract. Ridley-Thomas subsequently voted in favor of the amended contract, prosecutors said.
 

Prosecutors said earlier that the amended contract was expected to generate about $9 million a year for the School of Social Work.


Sebastian Ridley-Thomas later became a professor of social work and public policy at USCdespite lacking a graduate degree. He was later terminated over questions about his original appointment and concerns by the university over the $100,000 donation. The indictment of Mark Ridley-Thomas also alleged that he conspired with Flynn to obtain a full-tuition scholarship and graduate school admission for his son.
 

Ridley-Thomas was suspended from the Los Angeles City Council following the federal indictment. He is charged with one count each of conspiracy and bribery, two counts of honest services mail fraud and 15 counts of honest services wire fraud. He has denied any wrongdoing.
 

Flynn was dean of the School of Social Work at USC for 21 years until her departure in 2018. She had originally been facing the same slate of federal charges as Ridley-Thomas.
 

Responding to news of Flynn's plea agreement, USC issued a statement last week saying, "USC strongly supports the School of Social Work and the role it plays in training those who serve the public good. After the university learned during the summer of 2018 about unethical conduct by the former dean, we quickly disclosed the matter to the US Attorney's Office. Marilyn Flynn has not been employed by the university since Sept- ember 2018. USC is not a party to the criminal case but respects the judicial process."


Ridley-Thomas is a giant figure in local politics, previously serving on the Los Angeles City Council from 1991-2002, then serving in the California state Assembly and state Senate before he was elected to the powerful county Board of Supervisors in 2008, serving 12 years until he returned to the City Council.


He earned a doctorate in social ethics from USC and spent 10 years as executive director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Greater Los Angeles, beginning in 1981.

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US transitions to 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline

ROCKVILLE, MD (MNS)—Effective July 16, the US transitions the 10-digit National Suicide Prevention Lifeline to 988—an easy-to-remember three-digit number for 24/7 crisis care.

 

The lifeline, which also links to the Veterans Crisis Line, follows a three-year joint effort by the US Depart- ment of Health and Human Services (HHS), Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to put crisis care more in reach for people in need. This initiative is part of President Biden’s comprehensive strategy to address our nation’s mental health crisis, and is identified by US Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra as a top priority at HHS.

 

Since January 2021, the Biden-Harris Administration has made unprecedented investments to support the 988 transition, investing $432 million to scale crisis center capacity and ensure all Americans have access to help during mental health crises.

The National Suicide Hotline Designation Act, signed into law after the passage of bipartisan legislation in 2020, authorized 988 as a new three-digit number for suicide and mental health crisis. All telephone service and text providers in the US and the five major U.S. territories are required by the FCC to activate 988 no later than July 16.

"988 is more than a number, it is a message: we’re there for you. Through this and other actions, we are treating mental health as a priority and putting crisis care in reach for more Americans," said Secretary Becerra, who has been meeting with states across the country about the transition to 988 as part of HHS’ National Tour to Strengthen Mental Health. “There is still much work to do. But what matters is that we’re launching, 988 will be live. We are looking to every governor and every state in the nation to do their part to make this a long-term success."

The Biden-Harris Administration increased federal investments in the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline by 18-fold from $24 million to $432 million—to scale up crisis centers and back-up center capacity, and to provide special services, including a sub-network for Spanish language speakers.

The $432 million included $105 million in grant funding to states and territories, provided by the American Rescue Plan, to improve response rates, increase capacity to meet future demand, and ensure calls initiated in their states or territories are first routed to local, regional, or state crisis call centers. Prior to this investment, the Lifeline, which has existed since 2005, had been unfunded and under-resourced.

The 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline is a network of more than 200 state and local call centers supported by HHS through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

"Recent investments made in the Lifeline have already resulted in more calls, chats, and texts answered even as volume has increased, but we know that too many people are still experiencing suicidal crisis or mental health-related distress without the support they need," said Miriam E. Delphin-Rittmon, Ph.D., the HHS Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use and leader of SAMHSA.

 

"Over time, the vision for 988 is to have additional crisis services available in communities across the country, much the way emergency medical services work." Delphin-Rittmon said. "The success of 988 depends on our continued partnership with states, as the federal government cannot do this alone. We urge states and territories to join us and invest further in answering the call to transform our crisis care response nationwide."

FCC staff first proposed 988 in a report to Congress in August 2019 as the nationwide, easy-to-remem-ber, 3-digit dialing code for individuals in crisis to connect to suicide prevention and mental health crisis counselors with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. On July 16, 2020, the FCC adopted rules designating 988 for this purpose. Recognizing the need to better support at-risk communities in crisis, including youth and individuals with disabilities, the FCC adopted additional rules in November 2021 to expand access to this important service by establishing the ability to also text 988.

"All across our country, people are hurting. They need help. The good news is that getting that help just got a lot easier. The 988 hotline will be available nationwide for individuals in crisis, and their loved ones, to reach the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline more easily," said FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel.

 

"This cross-government effort has been years in the making and comes at a crucial point to help address the mental health crisis in our country, especially for our young people."

VA administers the Veterans Crisis Line through the Lifeline’s national network. Because of VA’s partnership with the Lifeline, the Veterans Crisis Line is affected by this transition to a new number. Veterans and their loved ones can now Dial 988 then Press 1 to reach the Veterans Crisis Line.

"988 has been a long time coming and will serve as a critical resource during a crisis when every second counts. The new, shorter number will help ensure Veterans have easier access to the Veterans Crisis Line," said VA Secretary Denis McDonough. "This launch is a whole-of-government approach in line with the president’s call to prioritize mental health by strengthening access to crisis services, and preventing Veteran suicide, our top clinical priority."

In 2021, the Lifeline received 3.6 million calls, chats, and texts. That number is expected to at least double within the first full year after the 988 transition.

The US had one death by suicide every 11 minutes in 2020, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Suicide was the second leading cause of death for young people aged 10-14 and 25-34. From April 2020 to 2021, more than 100,000 people died from drug overdoses. Studies have shown that after speaking with a trained crisis counselor, most Lifeline callers are significantly more likely to feel less depressed, less suicidal, less overwhelmed, and more hopeful.

The 10-digit Lifeline number 1-800-273-TALK (8255) will continue to be operational after July 16 and will route calls to 988 indefinitely. Veterans, service members, and their families can also still reach the Veterans Crisis Line with the current phone number 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, or by chat or text to 838255.

More information on 988 is available at www.samhsa.gov/988 and https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help/988/faqs. B-roll and soundbites are available for download here: https://hhstv.orangedox.com /20220716988BitesandBroll​

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Weather Forecast by the numbers

Cyclone still bringing heavy precipitation to California, Southwest

 

September 20, 2022 at 07:04 AM EDT

UPDATED 

Cyclone Kay has rapidly weakened to a post tropical cyclone but moisture from Kay will continue to produce heavy rain and flooding in Southern California and parts of the Southwest as of Sept. 10.

Flow around Post-Tropical Cyclone Kay will

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push deep moisture into Southern today, fueling thunderstorms with heavy rain. This activity may produce flash flooding, especially over areas with sensitive soils.

Additional rain amounts of 1 to 2 inches will be possible across the mountains of Southern California through the end of today while an additional amounts up to half an inch may be seen across lower elevations.

 

In Arizona, rain rates up to an inch per hour will be possible across the state’s far western counties. As such, Flood Watches extend from Kingman, Ariz., Las Vegas and Death Valley, Palm Springs and Campo, Calif.

If you come across water in the road, do not attempt to cross it, as it is likely deeper and running much faster than it appears. Remem- ber, Turn Around, Don’t Drown!
 
If there is one bright spot to come from this tropical system, it’s the decrease in temperatures over southern California. Daily high temperatures will return to the below average 70s and 80s this weekend and into the work week thanks to increased cloud cover from Kay. 

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