GLENDORA — After a sweeping eight-month investigation into allegations of conflict of interest at City Hall, the Los Angeles County district attorney's office has cleared the City Council, the mayor and a past mayor of any wrongdoing.
At the core of the probe--sparked by complaints from a Glendora resident whose identity was not released--investigators concluded that Mayor Bob Kuhn violated no laws by voting twice since 1986 to approve city contracts to an insurance agency that he co-owns. Kuhn abstained on 24 other occasions.
"Mr. Kuhn's substantially complete observance to avoid voting . . . reflects both his good faith attempt to avoid not only a potential conflict of interest, but the appearance of a conflict of interest as well," Deputy Dist. Atty. Thomas Wenke wrote in a 13-page report.
Kuhn, who maintained all along that he did nothing improper, contended that the allegations were personal attacks masterminded by local slow-growth activists.
"These charges were brought by a group of people who never knew what the hell they were talking about," Kuhn said. "At some point, I think they owe an apology to the community."
Wenke said he regretted that news of the investigation had been made public but added that the allegations seemed plausible and merited looking into.
"There had to be a reasonable basis for believing there was wrongdoing to get involved," Wenke said. "We felt an obligation to look into it."
During the course of the investigation, Wenke also received complaints about alleged improprieties in separate matters involving the City Council and former Mayor Kenneth Prestesater.
Complaints were made that the council in 1989 improperly reversed its decision on a proposed subdivision, voting to approve the project after meeting in closed session to discuss a pending legal challenge by the developers, Wenke said.
He also received complaints that Prestesater's contracting firm allegedly did the grading work on city-owned projects while he served on the council from 1980 to 1988.
In both cases, Wenke concluded, there was no evidence of any criminal activity.
"It's a shame so much time and effort was expended on unfounded accusations," City Manager Art Cook said. "Now we can get back to worrying about the city and not worrying about witch hunts."
The investigation began in May, when it was learned that Kuhn's insurance company had received more than $125,000 in city contracts since he was elected to the council in 1986.
A review of records by The Times showed that Kuhn had abstained on most votes but that on several occasions he had voted to approve payments totaling $7,475 to the Glendora-based Alandale Insurance Agency.
The district attorney's office noted that those votes were to approve "warrant registers" that included numerous bills already paid by the city's finance director. Wenke called it a "perfunctory and seemingly symbolic procedure."
After the investigation was launched, the council voted to obtain coverage from a different insurance broker. The state Fair Political Practices Commission also looked into the matter and found no evidence that Kuhn acted improperly.