DOWNEY — Mayor Diane P. Boggs sought this week to quell the controversy over her use of city-printed business cards in her reelection campaign. And at the same time a Downey official reversed himself and said Boggs had paid the city for the full cost of the cards.
In a press conference before Tuesday night's City Council meeting, Boggs said she was the target of a smear campaign and criticized the press for reporting the allegations of candidate John Drayer and council critic Lennie Whittington.
"The purpose of this charade is for you people," Boggs told reporters in City Hall. "There's absolutely no credibility to these charges."
Drayer and Whittington alleged last week that Boggs misused public funds because she did not pay for the full cost of the 5,500 city-printed cards. Boggs stapled some of the cards to campaign fliers urging her reelection on June 7.
Drayer, a substitute teacher, and Gregg Martell, who is retired, are opposing Boggs for her District 1 seat in what has been an otherwise quiet campaign. The district covers southeast Downey. Whittington frequently attends council meetings and criticizes council action.
Last week, Lee Powell, director of administrative services, said the city had charged Boggs only for materials and not for labor to finish the cards in the city print shop. In a report released Tuesday, Powell said a review showed the $64.65 that the councilwoman paid in March covered $6.61 in labor costs as well.
Despite that, Drayer said, Boggs should not have used city labor and facilities to print city business cards that ended up as campaign material. At the council meeting, Drayer called for Boggs' resignation and asked to council to direct the councilwoman not to use the business cards in her campaign.
The cards carry the city seal, the address and phone number of City Hall, Boggs' name and her title as mayor.
"I do not think that city staff should be printing cards that are for political purposes," Drayer said. "It took away time that those people could have been working for the city of Downey and not the election of Diane Boggs."
Scoffs at Suggestion
Boggs scoffed at the suggestion that she resign, saying "He can beat me at the polls if he wants my jobs."
The council--with Boggs abstaining--voted to take no action.
Councilman Randall R. Barb said it did not bother him that Boggs used city facilities and labor to print the cards.
"If the cost is being paid by the individual involved I think that is common practice," he said. State law prohibits using public funds for private purposes.
Powell said the billing problem occurred because the city charged Boggs as it would have charged any department ordering business cards for its employees. The billing does not include labor costs, or the cost of wear and tear on equipment, he said.
Last week, Boggs paid the city an additional $6.61 for labor costs. But Powell returned the check after it was determined Boggs had been overcharged for materials.
In his report, Powell said materials for the cards cost $49.34 and the $15.31 difference would more than pay for labor and equipment costs.
He said such an overcharge for materials, which the city purchases at varying prices, would go unnoticed in inter-departmental transactions.
"There was a little bit of fudge there and for so many of the cards the fudge became a little bit higher," Powell said.
But even if Boggs paid the full price, she still obtained the cards at below market value, Drayer and Whittington said.
Two Downey print shops told The Times they would charge from $100 to $120 for 5,500 white business cards that carried a name and phone number.
Boggs said she did not know what private printers charge and could not comment on whether she received a better deal from the city.
The councilwoman said Drayer was grasping at false issues to defeat her. In her campaign, Boggs is stressing her experience as an incumbent. If reelected, Boggs said she will work to improve city code enforcement to keep Downey clean and free of such public nuisances such as graffiti.
Drayer said he will not pursue the issue of business cards any further. If elected, Drayer said one of his objectives will be to improve water quality in Downey. Four city wells were closed last year because of contamination.
"I said my point and let the voters decide," Drayer said.