A City Council candidate and leader of a homeowners group that advocates more stringent financial disclosure laws for elected officials admitted this week she failed to report her own stock investments on forms required of candidates.
Shirley Griffin, 52, said she neglected out of oversight to list investments valued from $10,000 to $100,000 each on her "statement of economic interests," a disclosure form the state's Fair Political Practices Commission requires all city council candidates to complete.
Griffin, a marketing consultant and president of Glendale Residents to Improve Our Neighborhoods, said she notified the commission Monday of her error and that she plans to amend her form by Friday.
"It was really just an oversight," she said. "I really didn't think. A little mistake like this and everyone gives such a fuss."
Normally, failure to disclose real estate and stock investments is punishable by a $2,000 fine per violation and possible misdemeanor charges. But those penalties generally are waived if no formal complaint is lodged by the public and a candidate volunteers to correct the discrepancy, said Dixie Howard, a legal documents examiner with the commission.
Howard confirmed that Griffin had reported her discrepancy and volunteered to amend her form. Other commission officials said no formal complaint had been received about the candidate.
As a candidate in the 1989 Glendale City Council race, Griffin reported that she and her husband owned stock in 11 companies, including Security Pacific Bank, IBM, Pepsi, Exxon and the Chrysler Corp.
Griffin said this week she thought her husband had sold most of the stocks. But Ken Griffin, an attorney, said only two or three had been sold.
She said she was rushed in filing the statement on Jan. 24, the candidates' deadline to file for the April 2 election. She also said she did not believe it was important to disclose her and her husband's stocks because they were national and international businesses with no ties to local politics.
Griffin and her homeowners group often have charged that current City Council members have conflicts of interest with developers and that they do not fully disclose their financial affairs.
In a news release announcing her candidacy in January, Griffin said, "I think there is a need to tighten up financial disclosure laws relating to both our City Council members and also key city officials."
"This is entirely different," she said this week. "I'm not an incumbent. Whatever we have earned is not from campaign contributions or developers."
The Fair Political Practices Commission is mandated by the California Reform Act of 1974 to monitor the finances of and campaign contributions to city, county and state candidates, said Blanca Breeze, a commission attorney.
Candidates for city councils are required to report investments in companies that distribute, sell or are located in the jurisdiction of the office. They must report any real estate they own and use for business, such as rental property, located within that jurisdiction, Breeze said.
A candidate's failure to disclose information on the statement of economic interests, whether intentional or accidental, usually is reported by a citizen who files a formal complaint against the candidate, Breeze said.
The commission performs a random audit of 20% of the more than 17,000 disclosure forms it receives annually but has no formal means of verifying the information, she said. Howard and other examiners check the other 80% for basic errors, Howard said.
Some of the other seven candidates said they had trouble understanding the financial disclosure form, and an informal review of their statements revealed several minor discrepancies.
For instance, candidates are not required to report their own residences on the forms if they are not used for business purposes, Breeze said. But candidates John Beach, Mary Ann Plumley, Dick Matthews and Mayor Larry Zarian, who is running for a third term, all listed their residences as real estate interests.
Zarian, who reported owning several rental houses and apartments, said he purposely reported his house because he wanted to reveal all of his real estate holdings. Beach, a semi-retired data processing supervisor, said he mistakenly thought he was required to list his residence, but added that he would have disclosed it anyway.
Plumley, a real estate agent and Republican Party activist, said she "just figured" she ought to list her Glendale house and two rental apartments in Newport Beach. Matthews, a former Carnation Co. executive who ran unsuccessfully for the council in 1989, could not be reached for comment.
Two candidates, Bob Torres and Mary Ann Prelock, said they or their campaign treasurers attended recent commission-sponsored seminars to make sure they knew how to fill out the forms correctly.
"I think everybody should be pretty careful" when completing the disclosure forms, Prelock said. "This is a public arena we're in."