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City Hall Offices Used to Aid Walters Campaign : Politics: Six staffers helped council bid by Bradley ally, records and interviews show. Mayor issues reprimands.

May 23, 1991|JANE FRITSCH and DEAN E. MURPHY | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

At least six aides to Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley used City Hall offices and equipment to assist the City Council campaign of Rita Walters, the candidate endorsed by the mayor in the 9th District race, according to interviews and records.

City Hall computers were used to solicit staff members' help for Walters, who is a Los Angeles school board member and longtime Bradley ally. Bradley staff members subsequently wrote briefing papers for Walters on city issues, provided documents from their files and met with her to answer questions about their areas of expertise, The Times found.

Bradley's chief of staff, Deputy Mayor Mark Fabiani, sent a computer message last Friday asking staff members to attend a fund-raising event for Walters.

The assistance began in January, less than two months after the Los Angeles Police Department opened an investigation into possible misuse of city resources by the mayor's staff during three of Bradley's campaigns.

Following inquiries from The Times, Bradley on Wednesday reprimanded six staff members--including Fabiani--for creating "the perception that they used either city time or city facilities to assist an ongoing campaign," according to spokesman Bill Chandler.

Two aides were ordered to reimburse the city for a "small amount of staff time and computer time," Chandler said. The penalties totaled $37, the equivalent of one hour's pay for each.

Fabiani, who is vacationing in Hawaii, was reprimanded by phone for sending a computer message to mayoral aides last Friday soliciting volunteers to "boost the crowd" at a Walters fund-raiser held by Bradley and Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky on Sunday.

"This afternoon I called a number of staff members into my office," Bradley said Wednesday in a written statement. "I wanted them to hear directly from me my outrage. . . . I will not tolerate even the appearance of a violation of my policy" banning campaign activity in City Hall.

A century-old state law prohibits city, county and state officials and their aides from using taxpayer resources for campaign purposes. The law, the California Supreme Court said, is intended to ensure that government does not "bestow unfair advantage" to anyone in an election contest.

The law requires that campaign work be performed on personal time, generally outside business hours, and not involve use of government resources such as staff, supplies, typewriters, copiers and telephones, according to guidelines prepared by the state attorney general.

Walters, who faces City Council aide Bob Gay in a June 4 runoff, said Wednesday she solicited help from Bradley's office to familiarize herself with city issues and saw nothing improper about the request or the assistance she received. The briefings and materials she obtained were similar to those offered to the mayor's constituents every day, she said.

"There didn't appear to be anything that wasn't already in the public domain," Walters said. They included "documents that were already published, press releases, copies of newspaper articles," she said.

Gay, a longtime deputy to the late 9th District Councilman Gilbert Lindsay, said Wednesday that he will ask the city attorney and the state Fair Political Practices Commission to investigate. He called Bradley's actions against the staff members "a slap on the wrist."

"I'm chagrined . . . that this kind of thing goes on inside City Hall and the mayor's office," Gay said.

Bradley summoned four staff members into his office Wednesday afternoon to deliver "verbal reprimands," Chandler said. The four are Gary Boze, area coordinator for South-Central Los Angeles; Wendy Greuel, an aide for social issues; Michael Bodaken, the mayor's housing coordinator, and Wendy Harmon, an environmental aide.

Bradley planning aide Jane Blumenfeld was reprimanded by telephone, Chandler said. The reprimands will not be entered in the staffers' personnel files, and no further disciplinary action is planned, he said.

The staff members could not be reached for comment late Wednesday, but in interviews earlier this week, several acknowledged assisting Walters.

At least three held meetings with Walters to brief her on issues in the 9th District. Walters said she also discussed legal matters with Bradley legal adviser Jane Ellison outside City Hall as she contemplated entering the council race in January.

The attorney said Walters, who moved to the 9th District after Lindsay's death in December, asked questions about the city's residency requirement for council candidates. Ellison said there was nothing improper about the session.

Several aides also compiled written materials from City Hall files for Walters, including press releases and newspaper clippings, according to interviews.

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