PASADENA — Allegations that City Director Jo Heckman improperly influenced a zoning matter in which she had a financial interest are being reviewed by the Los Angeles County district attorney's office.
City Atty. Victor Kaleta forwarded the allegations to the district attorney's office last week after he concluded that "there was no way that I could say there was no violation."
Heckman asked Kaleta to investigate claims that she violated conflict-of-interest laws by trying to ensure that a necessary zoning permit would be granted to a client of her real estate company.
'No Clear-Cut Issues'
"There's no clear-cut issues," Kaleta said. "It needed to be taken to someone independent of the city and who didn't report to the board."
When asked what he had found in his own review, Kaleta said, "I would not feel comfortable commenting any further."
Heckman has denied any wrongdoing.
Deputy Dist. Atty. Monte Fligsten said he did not know when the review will be completed.
The allegations were leveled earlier this month by William Paparian, a local attorney who has clashed before with Heckman over alleged conflicts of interest concerning her role as a member of the Board of City Directors and her occupation as a real estate broker in Pasadena.
Paparian mailed more than 300 letters last month protesting Heckman's actions during the sale of the Marianne Frostig Center of Educational Therapy.
Sale of the property, for which Heckman is the real estate agent, was contingent upon the new owners receiving a conditional-use permit to establish a school on the site.
Paparian contended that Heckman used her influence as a city director to try to ensure that the permit was granted, thereby using a public office for private profit in violation of the state Political Reform Act.
The permit was approved Wednesday by a zoning hearing officer but allows for only 150 students at the school, rather than the 250 sought.
Some city officials said that Paparian, who ran unsuccessfully for Municipal Court judge in Pasadena in the June primary election, wants to run for Heckman's seat on the board next year, when her term is up.
Paparian denies that. "I really have no interest in running for the city board of directors," he said last week.
Paparian said that his interest is only to stop what he said appears to be Heckman's "pattern" of abusing her political office.
"It would be nice if she would stop," he said.
The district attorney's office also is reviewing another matter in connection with allegations of conflict of interest against Heckman.
That case, opened last year, concerns her involvement in the city's purchase of the old Armenian Center site.
City Bought Property
The city bought the property, which was one of the last parcels to be acquired for the Lake/Washington redevelopment project, in September, 1985.
The Armenian Center then relocated to another site, which Heckman helped it find. She was also the real estate agent for that property. Paparian represented the Armenian Center in negotiations with the city over a new location.
Heckman abstained when the board voted to buy the old center property. The $600,000 the city paid for the center was tied to how much the Armenian Center paid Heckman's client for the new location.
Heckman has denied any wrongdoing in that transaction and said she made no money from that sale, having turned it over to another realtor.
Heckman, an 11-year veteran of the board who was also the city's first woman mayor, said she has nothing to hide in either transaction.
"I've been representing the Frostig Center since 1979," she said. "There's nothing illegal about that. I've never made a secret of it."
After Paparian sent letters to residents living near the center, Heckman asked Kaleta to review the charges. Last week, she asked Kaleta to forward all information about her involvement with the Frostig Center sale to the district attorney's office.
"Vic feels that nothing is clear cut about it," she said. "He represents the city as a whole and the board as well. I told him to refer it to the district attorney and let them render an opinion, so there would be no color of anything not being right."
Paparian's allegations concern the sale of the Frostig Center at 2495 E. Mountain St. to the Living Waters Missionary Assn., which sought approval for a 250-student school and church on the site.
Paparian contended that Heckman violated conflict-of-interest laws by unduly influencing the permit process through meetings she arranged last month between neighbors who were concerned about the impact of the planned school, the sellers and buyers of the property and city staff members.
Heckman arranged such meetings, Paparian said, without informing the city or the neighbors of her financial interest in the property, which is in her district.
"The neighborhood meeting was for informational purposes," said Heckman. "It was to show them the plans for the school and to see if the neighbors had any problems with the design."