Park and Darling take on each other’s legal cases as campaign turns vitriolic

Los Angeles City Council’s District 11 race heats up

By Sam Catanzaro

Traci Park is maintaining her legal case following reports that the LA City Council’s District 11 candidate defended the use of the ‘n-word’ in a court case while representing the City of Anaheim in a lawsuit against a public works supervisor. Park responded by attacking his opponent in the race, Erin Darling, for defending child pornographers, gang members and rapists while serving as a public defender.

Park, a former Republican, is running against Darling, a former Green Party member in the race to replace LA City Councilman Mike Bonin, who opted out of running for re-election due to mental health concerns .

So far, Park and Darling’s respective campaigns have focused primarily on issues related to homelessness, housing and public safety. Although both are lawyers who live in Venice, they offer contractual approaches to solving these problems. Darling opposed the city’s anti-camping ordinance while Park supported it. Park called for the expansion of the Los Angeles Police Department while Darling called for more funding for mental health services. While the two have slugged each other over matters of politics, the competition has been mostly civil. Last week, however, the campaign turned vitriolic.

As first reported Thursday by Spectrum 1 News, Park defended the use of the “n-word” in the 2021 case, Harrell v. City of Anaheim. Andrew Harrell worked as a superintendent in the Anaheim Department of Public Works. According to Darling’s campaign, he was the only African American in management at the department. During his sixteen months with the city, Harrell said he suffered persistent racist abuse and harassment from his supervisor Dan Debassio.

“Debassio used the ‘n-word’ in front of Harrell many times and made comments like the need to hire more ‘blacks’ at the City for diversity reasons. He also made jokes about organs genitals of Mr. Harrell, once looking at Mr. Harrell’s private space and asking if he was ‘wearing underwear,'” reads a press release from Darling’s campaign. “Mr. Harrell complained about the abuse and was fired soon after. The city claimed Harrell was fired for using a tractor to push his broken down car, but it was seen as a pretext for their discriminatory firing.

Park represented the City of Anaheim in this case and filed a motion to have the claims dismissed and avoid going to discovery. Park argued that the use of the “n-word” is not discrimination. A judge dismissed the argument, found Harrell’s amended complaint to be valid, and ordered the parties to engage in a binding settlement conference. The case was eventually settled and Debassio kept his job.

Following the Spectrum report, Darling released a statement attacking Park for representing the city of Anaheim in the case.

“It is never acceptable to defend racism, even in court. The use of this racist slur has no place in our workplaces and Traci Park’s actions to defend racist employers are inexcusable. Traci Park may have thought she could get away with saying the ‘n-word’ wasn’t racist in court, but if the judge didn’t fall for it, Westside voters won’t. more. “Traci’s ‘legal’ argument is eerily reminiscent of right-wing judge Amy Coney Barrett who once ruled that using the ‘n-word’ did not create a hostile work environment,” Darling said. “Voters need to be aware of this case – which occurred in 2020, after the death of George Floyd – because it challenges the character and judgment of my opponent. Someone who advocates racist behavior and keeps racist supervisors in power does not deserve to exert influence on the Los Angeles City Council. My candidacy is based on the belief that the Westside is for everyone. Once in office, my values ​​as a civil rights lawyer will be an important counterbalance to the discrimination that so many face in our city.

Others to speak out against Park in the wake of this news include Black Lives Matter Los Angeles.

“Such blatant and heinous acts of racism speak volumes and are simply unacceptable to anyone, especially someone seeking public office,” the group said in a statement Friday.

On Monday, Assemblywoman Tina McKinnor, Los Angeles Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson, National Lawyers Guild Los Angeles Executive Director Christopher Chavis, religious leaders and public advocates held a press conference denouncing Los Angeles Park as unfit for duty.

Park reacted by accusing Darling of trying to distract voters from the homelessness crisis and attacking his record as a public defender.

“Mr. Darling has absolutely no plan to address the greatest challenges facing the residents of Council District 11. This is another desperate attack from a restless candidate trying to distract voters from the homelessness crisis, daily assaults on innocent residents, encampment explosions, fires throughout our district and the biggest issues facing our communities today,” Park said in a statement. firm represented the city of Anaheim in an employment discrimination case that was eventually settled. I have not tolerated and will never tolerate the use of racially charged language in any context. »

Park then spoke about his opponent’s record as a public defender.

“Just as I hope Mr. Darling does not support the real crimes committed by his current and former clients, including a convicted felon who sodomized a woman at gunpoint in a public restroom, at least two pornographers separate convicted juveniles, a convicted child rapist, an MS-13 gang member who allegedly kidnapped and killed an innocent person with a machete, and a convicted felon who illegally transported 558.6 grams of methamphetamine to a local jail, and many more. others, I do not support or condone harassment or conduct discrimination,” Park said. “Again, racist language and discrimination in any form is never acceptable. as strong as possible. I suspect that Mr. Darling also opposes child rapists, child pornographers and major drug traffickers. It is extremely unfortunate that Mr. Darling and his campaign have chosen to ess ayer to make it a problem because he is simply wrong about all the major challenges facing CD11 and has no real plan to reverse the devastating effects of the policies that his biggest supporter, Mike Bonin, has proposed and implemented over the past decade.

“This election is about the real issues that families across the Westside face every day. This is not and should not be about my former clients or those of Mr. Darling,” Park added.

His campaign sent Mirror Media Group a list of cases where Darling, as a public defender, represented gang members, drug dealers and a paedophile. These cases include: USA v. Cruz in which Darling is still currently portraying Paola Guevara, a member of MS-13, who allegedly participated in the kidnapping and murder of a man who falsely claimed to be a member of MS-13; and USA v Perez in which Darling represented a carnival ride operator who was convicted of assaulting a four-year-old girl sitting on the ride.