The Orange County Grand Jury on Wednesday urged the Board of Supervisors to proceed with the business of closing what it calls a loophole in the county's campaign reform ordinance, an issue raised almost a year ago.
Board Chairman Thomas F. Riley said that supervisors do not believe a loophole exists but that Wednesday's request will spur a renewed investigation to see whether a change is needed.
In a letter to the board, the grand jury said a flaw in the 6-year-old law allows hidden or double donations.
"It is our understanding that the supervisors promised the people that the ordinance loophole . . . would be closed," the letter states. "The 1984-85 grand jury urges you to implement the changes and clear up this area of possible public embarrassment and/or future conflict of interest."
The matter was uncovered by last year's grand jury, and current grand jury Foreman Thomas J. Kehoe said Wednesday's request is "just some housekeeping on our part" to make sure the job is done.
County Counsel Adrian Kuyper provided two proposed wording revisions of the ordinance to board members last April, and Wednesday's letter said either would be acceptable to the grand jury.
Riley said, however, that supervisors had been advised after receiving the wording revisions that no modifications were necessary.
The issue arose last year when it was discovered that Irvine Co. Board Chairman Donald L. Bren had made a personal donation of $1,000 to Supervisor Bruce Nestande and another $1,800 donation to Nestande through the Donald Bren Co., in which he holds a majority interest.
Although the personal donation did not exceed the limit of $1,403 in contributions over four years, it raised the question of whether a personal donation and one from a company in which the same person holds a controlling interest should in fact be considered one.
Once a person or corporation exceeds the limit, the supervisor involved is disqualified from voting on issues affecting that interest. The Bren question had special significance because Nestande voted on an issue affecting the Irvine Co. after receiving the Donald Bren Co. donation.
The limit under the ordinance has since been raised to $1,534 over four years in a cost-of-living adjustment.