The Police Department, declaring a conflict of interest, has asked the Los Angeles County district attorney's office to investigate allegations that Mayor Jack Wood provided false information on a city health insurance form last year in order to qualify his girlfriend for coverage.
Deputy Dist. Atty. Herbert Lapin said he received a letter Tuesday from Police Chief Frank Beeson asking that the investigation be turned over to the district attorney's office. Last month, Lapin had asked Beeson to head the investigation, saying it is a local matter.
"We will review it again, and an investigator will be assigned to do some investigation as to the allegations," Lapin said Wednesday. "If there is a violation of the law, then we'll have to decide whether it is prosecutable."
Hermosa Beach Police Lt. Michael Lavin, who drafted the letter to Lapin for Beeson, said the Police Department declared a conflict of interest because Wood is a councilman. Lapin said he was not surprised that the case has been returned to his office.
"There is a closeness between the police chief and the City Council, and they are trying to avoid the appearance of a conflict," Lapin said. He said he had forwarded the case to Beeson as a courtesy to the local law enforcement agency that normally investigates such allegations.
Lapin said the investigation will take two to eight weeks. He said the case will get "some priority" because Wood is up for reelection on April 8. Buty Lapin said he doubts that the investigation will be finished by the election.
"We can't gear our review to when the elections are," he said.
In a complaint filed with the district attorney in December, civic activist Roger Creighton charged that Wood falsified public records in November, 1984, when he signed up his girlfriend for the city's health insurance program. On the insurance form, Wood identified Helena Toulmet, now his fiancee, as his wife, listed her with a hyphenated version of his last name and included a fictitious wedding date. The health insurance benefits are available only to legally married spouses.
Wood has admitted filling out the forms with false information but said he removed Toulmet from the program as soon as he learned she was ineligible for coverage.