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Vincent Accepts Penalty of $4,851 for Misusing Funds

September 03, 1989|MARC LACEY | Times Staff Writer

Inglewood Mayor Edward Vincent agreed to pay $4,851.69 in civil penalties but admitted no wrongdoing in a settlement reached last week of a lawsuit that accused him of illegally using campaign funds.

The lawsuit, filed in March by the state attorney general's office, was the first prosecution of an elected official under a 1981 state law that says campaign contributions must be used for political or governmental purposes, not personal benefit.

Carl E. Douglas, Vincent's attorney, said the settlement ends a "nightmarish chapter in (Vincent's) political life" caused not by any illegalities but by an unfamiliarity with "the subtleties and nuances of the Election Code."

Personal Expenses Alleged

The suit accused the mayor of spending $4,851.69 in campaign money for personal uses such as truck repairs, clothes and a veterinarian's bill and for trips to Northern California, Philadelphia, Salt Lake City and Washington that were charged to both his campaign fund and the city.

The settlement reached with Vincent is half the maximum amount that would have been recoverable if the attorney general's office had shown that the mayor's violations were "knowing and willful." Violations of personal-use prohibitions are punishable by a fine of up to twice the amount of the illegal expense.

The mayor's critics called the settlement a cop-out by the state that will not show the mayor that his actions were wrong.

"Vincent has gotten caught with his hand in the cookie jar but he's just getting a slap on the wrist," said Terry Coleman, a frequent Vincent critic.

The state Fair Political Practices Commission said last week that it is still investigating the mayor's failure to itemize or explain about $50,000 in campaign travel spending since 1983. Vincent could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

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