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Trade Center Get-Together Called Illegal by Candidate

December 11, 1986|EDMUND NEWTON | Times Staff Writer

POMONA — A former councilman and frequent critic of the present city government tried to have the mayor and three other councilmen arrested Sunday for attending a gathering that he contends violated the state open meeting law.

The participants in the City Hall meeting, including Mayor G. Stanton Selby, say that they had gathered for a "social occasion" with representatives of companies that may develop and finance the proposed Inland Pacific World Trade Center.

"It was not a meeting," Selby said. "It was a reception which I held in my office in honor of Mr. Makoto Ozeki," vice president of finance for the Mitsubishi Trust and Banking Corp. in New York, which has been considering becoming the major financial backer of the trade center.

Secret Negotiations

Clay Bryant, who last week declared his intention to run against Selby for mayor next spring, contends that the four councilmen met secretly to conduct financial negotiations, violating a state law prohibiting legislative business from being conducted in private.

Bryant unsuccessfully tried to get police to arrest the council members, then reported his allegation to the Los Angeles County district attorney.

Pomona police said that the matter was out of their jurisdiction. Steve Sowders, the district attorney's chief deputy in charge of special investigations, acknowledged that Bryant had reported the charges.

"We're reviewing the allegation and the information to decide whether there's enough there to warrant an investigation," Sowders said. "I don't know if we'll initiate an investigation or not."

The Brown Act, named for its Assembly sponsor, the late Ralph M. Brown (D-Stanislaus), requires legislative bodies to conduct business, other than contract negotiations or confidential personnel actions, in public hearings. Violations of the law, passed in 1953, are misdemeanors, with maximum penalties of six months in jail or $500 in fines.

Bryant said that he became aware Sunday that the meeting was going on when he noticed the cars of Selby and Councilmen Mark Nymeyer, Vernon Weigand and E. J. (Jay) Gaulding parked in front of City Hall.

Took Photos of Cars

Bryant said he alerted his friend Al DiPalla, another critic of the council, who has declared his candidacy for the seat held by Weigand.

"He took pictures of the cars," Bryant said. "Then he had his wife go sit in the parking lot and wait on them (the councilmen). She saw Felvey and a Japanese guy come out."

H. Thomas Felvey is a developer with Birtcher, the Orange County development firm that is close to securing financing, primarily from Mitsubishi, for the proposed $90-million, 14-story trade center.

Ground-breaking for the building on 4.5 acres of city-owned land next to the Pomona Civic Center is scheduled for April 1, assuming the council gives it final approval.

After the group left City Hall, Bryant said, he telephoned Nymeyer.

'How Did Meeting Go?'

"I said, 'Mark, how did the meeting go with Felvey?' " Bryant said. "He said, 'It looks like we're going to have a world trade center.' That shows they had a meeting, they made decisions and they made commitments, with no public notice."

But Nymeyer said that he was only affirming his longstanding conviction that the trade center will be built.

"Every member of the council believes there will be a trade center," he said. "I felt that way before the reception. I felt that way after the reception."

He added that Ozeki had made no commitments with regard to the project.

'No Indication'

"The gentleman gave no indication in any form," Nymeyer said. "He wrote no notes. He didn't shake his head, yes or no, as to whether or not a trade center would become a reality in this town. His objective was to meet us. That's all."

Nymeyer said that Ozeki, on his first visit to Southern California, had flown into town by helicopter, accompanied by Felvey.

"We just said hello to him and introduced ourselves," Nymeyer said. "We drank coffee and crowed about how wonderful the city is. Then he had to be off in the helicopter again." Nymeyer said the reception lasted about 20 minutes.

"If his company is going to invest millions of dollars in a location, he'll want to look at it," added Selby. "That was the reason he took a tour of the city. We had a little reception. There was nothing secret, no business conducted."

Approval Likely

Selby said that the council is likely to give the trade center final approval "as soon as we get the green light from New York (Mitsubishi) and Birtcher."

Donna Smith, the only council member not present at City Hall on Sunday, said that she did not attend because of a business commitment.

She said that she saw no irregularities in the gathering. "The Japanese are very funny in that they want to meet the local government before they invest," said Smith.

City Atty. Patrick Sampson said that he did not perceive a Brown Act violation in the Sunday gathering.

"It was basically similar to a ribbon-cutting ceremony," he said. "I wasn't there, but it's my impression that they all just exchanged pleasantries."

He said Brown Act restrictions would affect only meetings where "actions were contemplated or business was transacted."

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