Restaurateur Francis M. Delaney, owner of Orange County-based Delaney's restaurants, was arrested Friday on suspicion of offering a $20,000 bribe to a Newport Beach planning commissioner, a Newport Beach police spokesman said.
Lt. Tim Newman said that Delaney was arrested as he left his office after a police investigation revealed that Delaney allegedly offered the money to Planning Commission Chairman James C. (Buzz) Person Jr. to get a construction proposal approved.
The alleged bribe occurred in January, Newman said, after Delaney contacted Person and attempted to solicit his help in changing the elevation at the site of a new restaurant so that customers could have a better view of Newport Bay.
"Person notified Newport Beach police immediately after the bribe was made," Newman said, adding that more evidence was gathered by police with Person's cooperation.
'There's Money in It'
"Evidence was obtained that Delaney had offered as much as $20,000 for his (Person's) help," Newman said.
Delaney, according to Newman, told Person, "There's money in it if you could help get it approved."
Delaney, 62, is board chairman of the
corporation that bears his name. It operates food services and provides catering for restaurants and lounges in Southern California.
In 1986, Delaney's Inc. had sales of $15 million and a work force of several hundred, according to Dun's "Million Dollar Directory," published by Dun & Bradstreet.
A Newport Beach planner, Robert Lenard, expressed surprise late Friday when told of Delaney's arrest.
Lenard said that Person, an attorney in Newport Beach, has been on the Planning Commission at least three years.
Person could not be reached for comment.
According to police, Delaney wanted the elevation changed for a new building in the 3100 block of West Coast Highway in Newport Beach.
The building, which is called Lancer's Landing, is under construction.
Based on evidence obtained during the investigation, Newman said, the matter was referred to Deputy Dist. Atty. Martin Engquist, who filed one felony bribery count against Delaney this week.
A warrant was issued for Delaney Friday and the businessman was arrested shortly afterward as he was leaving his Newport Beach office.
Delaney was booked into Newport Beach City Jail on suspicion of bribery. Bail was set at $250,000.
He was released Friday afternoon after posting bail, a city jailer said.
Newman said the investigation is continuing.