A ballot measure calling for the creation of a Los Angeles city health department would endanger public health and waste taxpayers money, the City Attorney's Office argue in a complaint filed in Superior Court today.
The city lodged the legal challenge in an effort to block the measure from being on the June ballot.
If the initiative passes, the city would be required to end its contract with the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health and be given 120 days set up its own public health department.
The city contends the measure would "disrupt critical health services and threaten health and safety in the city," as well as "waste approximately $4.6 million in public resources to conduct an election that is invalid as a matter of law."
They argue the initiative is invalid because it is "unlawfully vague," conflicts with state "laws and regulations governing the protection of public health," and "unlawfully encroaches on the administrative functions of a city."
Ged Kenslea, spokesman for measure sponsor AIDS Healthcare Foundation, said the initiative legally qualified for the ballot and they "fully intend to bring the measure before voters."
Kenslea added they "would not disagree" with some of the city's criticisms against the initiative, including the 120-day time frame for creating the city health department.
"Allowances can and should be made" to address issues that "may be a legitimate concern -- that doesn't mean the item should not go before voters," Kenslea said.
The city of Los Angeles disbanded its health department in 1964 and has since relied on the county to monitor infectious diseases, manage restaurant and retail food safety and operate public health clinics, among other health and safety services.
The AIDS Healthcare Foundation -- which successfully supported a 2012 measure to require condoms be used in porn film shoots -- and other sponsors gathered the necessary signatures in May to qualify the measure for the ballot.
The Los Angeles City Council, in June, signed off on placing the measure on the June 2014 ballot, but vowed to challenge the measure's legality, saying a separate, public health department would burden the city with more than $260 million in set-up and annual operation costs.
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors earlier this month also officially opposed the initiative, with Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky accusing the nonprofit organization of carrying out a "vendetta" against the county because of a series of audits they conducted on the nonprofit.
Foundation officials have countered they began collecting signatures for the initiative before the audits and said they are being retaliated against for speaking up about the county's handling of public health issues.
Kenslea said the county Department of Public Health is bogged down in bureaucracy and is to blame for a rise in syphilis cases and recent outbreaks of tuberculosis on Skid Row and in El Monte schools.
The county department is "too big to serve" the public well, Kenslea said.
"We believe there can be both savings and increased health outcomes by operating a smaller public health department that really services the needs of city residents," Kenslea said.