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Ex-Councilman Seeks Inquiry Into 'Smear Campaign'

August 18, 1988|RICHARD HOLGUIN | Times Staff Writer

MONTEBELLO — Former City Councilman William M. Molinari has asked the district attorney's office to investigate what he calls a "smear campaign" by a political action committee in last November's municipal election.

Molinari was defeated by Councilman Art Payan and Councilwoman Kathy Salazar in the race for two at-large seats, after a strong opposition campaign by Concerned Citizens for Honesty in Government. The group was organized last year by a local developer, and listed among its contributors two businessmen who run the Quiet Cannon restaurant and discotheque in Montebello.

Opposed Developments

Molinari said he thought he was attacked primarily because he opposed developments supported by members of the political action committee.

Two weeks before the election, the group asked the district attorney's office to investigate Molinari. The group said Molinari apparently did not report campaign expenses and donations, a violation of the state's Political Reform Act. The request formed the cornerstone of a biting mail campaign by Concerned Citizens in the days before the election.

In an Aug. 10 letter to Deputy Dist. Atty. Steven A. Sowders, Molinari's attorney said the political action committee may have violated the state Political Reform Act by knowingly making a false report of a crime to the district attorney's office.

"They were total falsehoods," Molinari, a Montebello contractor, said in an interview this week. "This has left a very serious question about my integrity and reputation. You work a lifetime to build a reputation and it takes a few minutes to destroy it."

Sowders, who heads the district attorney's special investigations division, said he had not reviewed the letter from Molinari's lawyer, Michael S. Magnuson, to decide whether to initiate an investigation.

Local developer Michael Minasian, who organized Concerned Citizens, said he had not seen Molinari's complaint and could not comment directly on the allegations. "We just got the facts and put out what we had," he said.

Few Other Issues

Molinari, who had served on the council since 1982, said the call for an investigation and the last-minute mail blitz were key factors in his loss. Payan and Salazar said they were not part of Concerned Citizens, but acknowledged that the group's campaign was a major factor in an election that had few other issues.

Payan received 3,329 votes, while Salazar had 3,018. Molinari finished with 2,233 votes, while a fourth candidate, Art Rangel, received 1,744.

Concerned Citizens went on the offensive Oct. 19, when Minasian sent a letter to the district attorney's office requesting an investigation of the Molinari campaign. Minasian accused Molinari of failing to report campaign expenditures accurately. The allegations were carried in Concerned Citizens' mailers, which said "even the district attorney has been asked to investigate Councilman Molinari."

Investigation Dropped

The district attorney's office forwarded the complaint to the state Fair Political Practices Commission, which in February found no basis to investigate the allegations.

The complaint alleged that Molinari had not reported expenses for a political mailer, campaign signs and his campaign headquarters in a Beverly Boulevard shopping center. Those items were included in a Molinari campaign statement filed Oct. 22, 1987, with the city clerk.

Molinari alleged that Concerned Citizens deliberately called for the investigation of his campaign three days before the filing period because the group knew the Oct. 22 campaign disclosure statement would detail the expenses in question.

The complaint from Concerned Citizens also alleged that Molinari failed to report a contribution of $3,828 from Almansor Court Inc., which runs an Alhambra restaurant that was the site of a Molinari fund-raiser in April, 1987. The contribution allegedly helped cover part of the expenses of the fund-raiser.

Debt Was Paid

Molinari said he has a receipt indicating he fully paid Almansor Court Inc. for the fund-raiser--$6,456. He reported the expenditure in a July campaign statement.

K.L. (Bucky) Dennis, one of the contributors to Concerned Citizens, is president of Almansor Court Inc.

Molinari said the claim that he received a contribution from Almansor Court was fabricated.

Dennis also is president of Quiet Cannon Montebello Inc., which runs the Quiet Cannon restaurant and discotheque in Montebello.

Minasian provided $3,600 in contributions and loans to Concerned Citizens, while Dennis contributed $4,458, according to campaign disclosure statements. David Perrin, a business partner of Dennis and former president of Quiet Cannon Montebello Inc., put in $950. The only other contributor to Concerned Citizens was Montebello developer Phillip Pace, a former city treasurer who gave $4,301.

Concerned Citizens had no formal membership, Minasian said.

Reason for Criticism

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