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FBI Probing Records of Tax Panelist From L.A.

December 20, 1988|DANIEL M. WEINTRAUB | Times Staff Writer

SACRAMENTO — Federal agents investigating connections between campaign contributions and tax decisions at the State Board of Equalization are seeking documentation of meetings and phone calls involving board member Conway H. Collis of Los Angeles.

Democrat Collis' records were requested in a grand jury subpoena delivered by an FBI agent to the board's Sacramento office last Tuesday, according to board sources.

The subpoena, a copy of which was obtained by The Times, asks for "any and all records, both business and personal," relating to Collis' appointment schedule and phone calls between Jan. 1, 1986, and Dec. 31, 1987.

The request covers "calendars, date books, scheduling sheets, daily/weekly planners, Rolodexes or similar listings of phone numbers, phone messages" and any computerized records of the same information.

The subpoena commands Collis' Sacramento secretary or an "authorized representative" to deliver the documents to the federal grand jury Dec. 29. A similar subpoena was delivered to Board of Equalization member Paul Carpenter's office on Dec. 13, a Carpenter aide said last week.

Collis has failed to return several telephone calls from The Times during the last week.

The tax board is the subject of a federal corruption probe that is parallel to but not directly a part of the FBI's Capitol sting operation.

The sting involved fake companies created by undercover federal agents to sponsor legislation and offer money to lawmakers in an effort to expose bribe solicitations in the Legislature. The Board of Equalization probe reportedly involves a more conventional investigation of campaign contributions made by companies with tax matters before the board.

Carpenter, a Democrat who is a former state senator from Norwalk, is a subject of both federal investigations. Four current state legislators are also subjects of the Capitol inquiry. The Collis subpoena is the first documentation that agents are also interested in his activities during 1986 and 1987.

The Board of Equalization is a five-member panel that assesses $30 billion annually in state taxes on utilities and businesses. The board each year establishes the value of the utilities' property, which in turn determines the companies' tax liability.

Collis, elected to the board in 1982 and reelected in 1986, has been the board's top political fund-raiser. A Stanford Law School graduate who aspires to become a U.S. senator, Collis has collected $948,950 in campaign funds since 1986.

In a recent interview, Collis said that in 1987 he stopped accepting contributions from utilities and refrained from voting on tax matters involving his political supporters. Although there have been a few exceptions to this policy, Collis described those votes as "oversights."

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