The Los Angeles County district attorney's office said Tuesday that there is no evidence to support an accusation that Burbank City Councilwoman Mary Lou Howard and her husband violated state law prohibiting conflicts of interest by public officials, an allegation that has become an issue in the current city election campaign.
The case, forwarded to the district attorney's office by Burbank City Atty. William B. Rudell, involved an attempt by Howard's husband to acquire land for a law office in the city redevelopment zone while she serves as a member of the Burbank Redevelopment Agency.
Although Howard's seat on the council is not at stake in next Tuesday's election, she is deeply involved in the campaign. She earlier charged that Rudell, a political opponent, instigated the district attorney's investigation as a "political vendetta" to discredit her efforts to oust Mayor E. Daniel Remy and Councilman Larry L. Stamper.
Campaigning for Allies
Howard, who is frequently at odds with other council members, has charged that the current council majority is biased in favor of developers. She is campaigning for a slate of three political allies--Mary Kelsey, Michael Hastings and Al Dossin--whose victories could reverse the balance of power on the five-seat council.
Kelsey, Hastings and Dossin are in a runoff election against Remy, Stamper and an independent, Brian Bowman.
The special investigations division of the district attorney's office reviewed the accusation and "discovered no evidence of criminal violations by the Howards of the conflict-of-interest statutes," Deputy Dist. Atty. Candace Beason wrote in a letter to Rudell's office. "The district attorney's office will take no further action in regard to Mrs. Howard."
Rudell, whose appointment as city attorney was opposed by Howard, said he had not been carrying out a vendetta.
"We just asked the district attorney to review the information, and they performed their statutory duty," he said.
Beason's letter said that "many of the issues raised are more properly handled" by a pending civil suit between Howard's husband, Jack, and the Burbank Redevelopment Agency.
As a member of the agency, Mary Lou Howard is barred by state law from buying property in the redevelopment zone. Her husband, however, said exceptions in the law enabled him to acquire a site within the zone for a law office.
Sold Office Building
Jack Howard and a former law partner owned their own office building in an area that was declared part of the redevelopment project before Mary Lou Howard was elected to the City Council in 1979. The two lawyers then sold the building to the Redevelopment Agency.
In such cases, the state law allows public officials to buy replacement property in the zone.
But Jack Howard's plans to buy a site at Olive Avenue and Glenoaks Boulevard became the subject of a pending lawsuit and countersuit between the lawyer and the Redevelopment Agency.
The land was eventually purchased by Burbank businessman Sydney Giddens. One of the allegations investigated by the district attorney's office was that Giddens was acting on behalf of the Howards. The Howards and Giddens denied the charge, and the district attorney's report said "no evidence has been found to suggest that Mr. Giddens is holding title to the site for the benefit of the Howards."
The report said the state conflict-of-interest law was designed to keep government agencies aware of any personal interest by their officials in matters coming before them "so that an individual member does not participate in decisions that may foreseeably have a material financial effect on his or her interest."
Mary Lou Howard complied by "promptly" reporting her husband's real estate interests to the Redevelopment Agency, the report said.