SACRAMENTO — The Fair Political Practices Commission on Monday filed the largest civil suit in its history against the chairman of the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors, charging that he violated "virtually every major provision" of the 1974 law that governs political activities in California.
The suit seeks $2.9 million from William M. Bryan, more than twice that sought in its highly publicized case against San Diego Mayor Roger Hedgecock.
The case against Bryan involves conflict of interest charges and claims that he concealed nearly $3 million in personal financial transactions that must be reported under provisions of the state's political reform law.
Several of the allegations involve what the commission says was a secret business relationship between Bryan, then chairman of the commission that reviewed companies for cable television contracts, and several parties bidding for parts of those contracts.
In announcing the suit, commission Chairman Dan Stanford said it would serve as a "loud and clear notice" to officials who seek to bypass public disclosure laws. "Although public officials need not take a vow of poverty," Stanford said, "they should vow not to use their official position for personal gain."
In a press conference, Bryan, 47, who was elected to the board in 1980, refused to answer the specific allegations except to say that "there were no intentional violations."
He vowed to stay in office at least until the suit is resolved. "I plan on giving the FPPC the fight of their lives," he said. "I do not plan to roll over and play dead."
Local Officials Targeted
The suit is the latest sign of the commission's increased efforts to investigate local political figures. Last year, the Legislature agreed to pay for a doubling of the commission's enforcement staff and a new local enforcement division.
Among local politicians who subsequently fell into the commission's net were Richmond Mayor Thomas J. Corcoran and Madera City Councilman Roy Ben Lyon, both of whom were accused of conflicts of interest and were fined $15,000 and $4,000 respectively.
The $1.2-million suit filed in October against Hedgecock had been the largest claim lodged by the commission against any political figure. Hedgecock's recent trial on perjury and conspiracy charges ended in a hung jury, and Stanford reportedly has been negotiating a settlement of the FPPC suit.
At the same time, the commission has played only a secondary role in the case against Orange County businessman W. Patrick Moriarty, who pleaded guilty to a variety of felony counts and said he would cooperate in an investigation of bribery charges against state legislators and other politicians.
Stanford insisted that the commission's recent actions are not a signal that it has lost interest in state officials.
Probed for Two Years
The commission's investigation of Bryan has been under way for about two years and was triggered by a newspaper story charging that he had failed to report a $200,000 loan.
Among the specific allegations is that Bryan voted to award a cable television franchise despite the fact that he had business dealings with the founder of a firm that specializes in installation of underground television cables and was seeking a part of the Sacramento contract. The suit alleges that the businessman paid for trips by Bryan and his wife to Ontario, Calif.; Washington, D.C., and New York City. Later, the suit charges, he agreed to lend Bryan $150,000, part of which Bryan used to purchase a house.
Bryan, the suit says, also failed to disclose substantial investments in properties in Hawaii as well as $834,000 in loans he had obtained from a variety of Sacramento investors.