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Farrell Failed to Report Free 1986 Trip to Mideast

January 07, 1988|GLENN F. BUNTING | Times Staff Writer

Los Angeles City Councilman Robert Farrell, who already faces a district attorney's inquiry into conflict-of-interest allegations, last year failed to fully report a free trip to the Middle East as required by state law.

The gift--$3,100 in air fare and hotel expenses--was paid for by the Assn. of Arab-American University Graduates. The organization sent Farrell, Compton Mayor Walter R. Tucker and three other U.S. mayors to an Arab conference in Saudi Arabia in May, 1986. While Tucker disclosed the trip earlier this year on the required form, Farrell did not report any gifts on the form he is required to file with the city clerk, city records show.

As a member of the Coliseum Commission, Farrell reported his trip to the Arab world, according to county records. But he did not disclose the trip or any other gifts in his annual economic statement as a council member.

Through his office, Farrell called the omission "an oversight" and said his office is reviewing all the gifts he received in 1986 "to make the necessary corrections."

Public officials are required by the California Political Reform Act to disclose all financial interests that could cause a potential conflict, including gifts that exceed $50 in value. Officials who are found in violation of the law by the state Fair Political Practices Commission face potential fines.

Farrell visited Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia, to attend an Arab conference, toured King Saud University and met with several deposed and exiled Palestinian officials in Jordan, said Sous Rahi, a spokesman for Arab-American University Graduates.

Farrell, 51, a councilman for 13 years, blamed a former staff member for failing to list any gifts, according to the councilman's spokeswoman, Vicki Pipkin.

"We're going over 1986, period," Pipkin said. "All of the gifts he received for that entire year are being reviewed to see which ones should be declared and not declared."

The district attorney's office is reviewing Farrell's activities to determine if the councilman has violated disclosure laws by steering more than $400,000 in real estate gifts, city rental payments, campaign contributions and a government grant to a small social service agency run by Essiebea Farrell, his former wife. In addition, Farrell has used his influence to provide financial benefits to a wide range of friends and relatives.

Last week, Farrell used city funds to send constituents 3,961 letters that defended his support of his ex-wife's agency, according to the General Services Department. City law forbids elected officials from using taxpayer funds to pay for mass mailings if they are not related to official city business. Deputy City Atty. Claude Hilker declined to say whether he considered the mailing a violation of city law.

Last week's mailing is not the first time city officials have questioned the use of city resources by Farrell's office to mail letters. Farrell's office also sent about 120 letters via overnight mail at a cost of $10.75 each to announce a scheduled change for a grants committee meeting, City Hall sources said.

City statistics show that Farrell sends far more mail at city expense than any of his 14 colleagues on the council, according to Stuart Feuer, chief administrative assistant for the General Services Department.

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