In the mid-1980s, before a political corruption scandal gained him notoriety, fireworks magnate W. Patrick Moriarty wanted to meet with Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley about a deal that needed city approval. He was directed to a contact lens technician named Mary Anne Singer.
"I was told by a City Hall lobbyist that if you wanted to talk to Tom Bradley, Mary Anne was the person you went through," Moriarty recalled in a recent interview. "She could deliver him to listen to your story."
Recently, flower wholesaler Mas Yoshida said, Singer has suggested she could act as a lobbyist to help smooth the way for a proposal to close a city street and create a pedestrian mall at the downtown flower mart. Although he said he does not need Singer's help, Yoshida described her as a Bradley "liaison person" who markets access to the mayor.
"She takes ideas to the mayor," he said. "The mayor seems to listen to her suggestions."
Bradley and Singer have been friends for nearly a decade, and in that time, the mayor has intertwined his personal associations and public duties.
She has used her connections to Bradley to build a small public relations business. The mayor has granted audiences to her clients and associates and appeared at their special events. Once, he prodded the bureaucracy to install a stop sign in front of her house.
Singer has raised tens of thousands of dollars for Bradley's various election drives. She has become one of the close-knit circle of supporters who have joined Bradley on trips, and at political events. The mayor has visited her home.
As with some of the mayor's other friendships, the ties between Bradley and Singer raise questions of preferential treatment and conflict of interest, offering a glimpse of how business is sometimes conducted at City Hall.
Since April, Bradley has been under intense scrutiny by various local and federal authorities. A federal grand jury recently was convened to investigate possible violations of public corruption and securities laws by the mayor.
Investigators have explored many aspects of Bradley's financial affairs, including his employment by banks doing business with the city, his role in steering public funds to an Africa trade group headed by a business partner and his purchase of stocks from firms and individuals suspected of insider trading.
Although City Atty. James K. Hahn said in September that he had found insufficient evidence to prosecute the mayor for conflicts of interest, he sharply criticized the man who rose to power 16 years ago as a crusader for clean government. In recent years, Hahn said, the mayor has displayed an "indifference to such ethical concerns."
No Comment From Singer or the Mayor
Bradley refused to discuss his dealings with Singer, despite repeated requests from The Times. He also did not respond to written questions. For her part, Singer would say only: "I do not desire to talk to you."
Most of those in Bradley's innermost circle discussed Singer only with great reluctance and, in some cases, with the promise of anonymity. Many said that they remain loyal to the five-term mayor and do not want damage his political legacy.
Singer has told friends that she met Bradley in the late 1970s, while fitting him for contact lenses at a clinic that treated city employees.
Since then, the friendship has deepened. Bradley has become a parental figure to her teen-age son, according to the boy's father, Martin Singer.
In 1984, when Mary Anne Singer was going to be out of town, she gave Bradley her power of attorney to sign final paper work for the sale of her Hancock Park home, an acquaintance recalled. Documents related to the transaction show Bradley's signature and list his address as City Hall.
Bradley once recommended her for a job and then made sure she got paid.
Mark Weinberg, the mayor's former investment adviser, said that in 1984, at Bradley's urging, he agreed to pay Singer a monthly retainer to steer prospective clients to his commodities brokerage firm.
"I did it because I like the mayor," said Weinberg, now an independent television producer.
Weinberg said that when he fell behind in his payments to Singer three or four times, the mayor "would make comments like, 'You need to take care of Mary Anne.' "
"To be fair to her," he added, "she did raise one million bucks (in investments), although that's chicken feed in this business."
Weinberg said she earned $50,000 from the arrangement, over an 18-month period.
'Nobody Had Access Like Mary Anne'
Singer is a 47-year-old native Californian who has been married and divorced twice, the last time in 1979. She is tall with a sparkling smile and a regal bearing. Friends and business associates describe her as an energetic, civic-minded businesswoman with a mercurial temperament.