The California Fair Political Practices Commission will not seek to penalize Orange County Planning Commissioner C. Douglas Leavenworth for accepting gifts from a prominent development company, an agency document shows.
According to an internal FPPC memorandum, agency lawyers have accepted as "likely valid" Leavenworth's contention that he had overvalued the worth of those gifts, provided in 1987 by the Mission Viejo Co. Leavenworth reported the gifts in 1988 on state-required financial disclosure forms.
Leavenworth, a retired aerospace engineer who has served on the Planning Commission since 1982, said Thursday that he did not wish to comment. Leavenworth has said previously that he both overvalued the gifts and mistakenly reported gifts intended for his wife. He also has said the gifts did not influence his actions on the Planning Commission.
At issue in the FPPC's review was whether Leavenworth violated state conflict-of-interest law in 1988 by voting on matters affecting the Mission Viejo Co. after he had accepted golfing privileges, event tickets and meals that he had valued at $365 during the previous year.
State law prohibits officials from participating in decisions affecting a gift giver when the value of the gifts in the preceding year is $250 or more. The FPPC is empowered to impose maximum fines of $2,000 per violation.
The FPPC began its review after The Times reported in August that Leavenworth had voted 14 times in 1987 and eight times in 1988 on Mission Viejo Co.-related projects, despite his receipt of the firm's gifts. Leavenworth voted in favor of the company's position on each of those occasions.
In deciding not to fine or otherwise sanction Leavenworth, the FPPC accepted his defense: That he misstated the worth of the gifts in 1987 by counting theater and baseball tickets intended for his wife and by overvaluing other perquisites from the Mission Viejo Co. Leavenworth's revised valuation of his gifts from the company was $242.50--$7.50 under the law's limit.
The FPPC memorandum noted that Leavenworth filed an amended economic-disclosure statement within days of The Times' report and that the commissioner has completed such reports over the years "in a detailed manner and on a timely basis."
"An examination of the evidence, including a telephonic interview with Commissioner Leavenworth, indicates that the amended (annual disclosure report) is likely valid," wrote FPPC lawyer Elizabeth S. Stein. A copy of the memo, prepared for the acting chief of the FPPC's enforcement division on Dec. 28, was obtained by The Times on Thursday.
An FPPC spokeswoman did not return a call for comment.
The Orange County district attorney's office announced in October that, because of Leavenworth's revaluation of his gifts, evidence did not exist to seek charges against him.