The race for West Hollywood's two contested City Council seats has heated up, with Ruth Williams accusing rival candidate Paul Koretz of accepting unreported money from the defunct campaign of Mayor Alan Viterbi.
Williams called on Koretz to return $10,000 contributed by Viterbi's former campaign committee, and assailed the mayor for failing to disclose the source of the funds.
Viterbi, who has been a councilman since West Hollywood's incorporation in 1984, last month announced he would not seek reelection and endorsed Koretz, his longtime aide.
"(Viterbi) has collected thousands of dollars from sources unknown, and has refused to comply with state law and has not filed a semiannual report, which was due more than a month ago," said Williams. "Now, his political crony, Paul Koretz, has taken that $10,000 that has never been reported, never been itemized, and never disclosed to the public. I find that outrageous."
Williams, a frequent critic of the mayor, has asked the Los Angeles district attorney's office and the state's Fair Political Practices Commission to investigate the matter.
Koretz called Williams' remarks "a smoke screen for the lack of support she has been able to generate" in the campaign.
"I think what really irritates her is that she's been running for office for a year and has raised $13,000, whereas I've been running for a little more than three weeks and have already received $20,000, even without Alan's contribution," he said.
A campaign disclosure statement filed by Koretz last week showed $10,000 contributed by Friends of Alan Viterbi, the mayor's defunct campaign committee, plus a $1,200 "in-kind" contribution from the committee in the form of office space.
Koretz also listed a $1,900 personal contribution from Viterbi, and a $100 contribution from Andrew Viterbi, the mayor's father, a resident of La Jolla.
Williams' accusation against the mayor stems from his failure to file a complete semi-annual statement of campaign contributions for the last half of 1987 by Feb. 1, as required by state law.
Sherie Nelson, the city's election official, said that Viterbi submitted a portion of the statement on Feb. 1, along with a letter stating his intent to provide the complete document later.
The city clerk has since written Viterbi twice asking him to complete the filing, most recently last week, she said. By law, failure to comply with the filing deadline is punishable by a fine of $10 a day, up to a maximum of $100.
In an interview, Viterbi blamed a "computer malfunction" at the bank where his campaign funds are deposited for his inability to complete the filing. The mayor said his bank records do not include all of his campaign transactions for October, making it impossible to file a complete disclosure.
"It's an unfortunate thing, and it's something I hope can be resolved soon," he said.
Last October, a fund-raising event at the Beverly Hills Hotel raised more than $50,000 for Viterbi, most of which the mayor said was used to pay off old campaign debts.
The $10,000 contributed to Koretz came from funds left over from the fund-raiser, Viterbi said.
Williams has complained that since the mayor has not submitted a completed statement, there is no public record of who contributed the money.
"I think the people of West Hollywood have the right to know who contributes to someone's political campaign, even if that person is no longer a candidate, and more importantly, I think it says something about the integrity of Paul Koretz for accepting the funds under those circumstances," she said.
Koretz dismissed the criticism.
"I don't think it's any major secret who gave money to Alan Viterbi, and I suspect that when the facts are known, the list will include a number of the same people who've given to Ruth Williams," he said.
Meanwhile, both Williams and Koretz have claimed important endorsements over the past week.
The Stonewall Democratic Club, prominent in the city's gay and lesbian community, has endorsed Williams and incumbent Abbe Land for the two at-large seats to be decided April 12, as has the more traditional West Hollywood Democratic Club.
Koretz and Land won an endorsement from the Los Angeles County Democratic Party.
Land also won the endorsement of the Municipal Election Committee of Los Angeles, a gay and lesbian advocacy group, along with candidate Teresa Garay.