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Councilman to Donate $11,000 to Police : Politics: Hal Bernson is working to establish a fund for officers after being ordered to repay a laundered campaign contribution.

January 07, 1994|HUGO MARTIN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Los Angeles City Councilman Hal Bernson responded to an order by the city's Ethics Commission to repay $11,000 in laundered campaign contributions, saying Thursday he will donate the money to police in his district.

Bernson instructed city officials Wednesday to establish a fund for police in the Devonshire Division, and said he also will give police $5,000 from a 5% salary increase that he and other local elected officials are scheduled to receive this year.

The $11,000 in contributions came from Evergreen American Corp., a giant shipping firm that admitted last year to illegally funneling $172,000 in contributions to state and local officials through employees, relatives and friends. Campaign laws require that the sources of all contributions be disclosed so that the public can determine where the money originated.

Bernson's donation appears to have satisfied the Ethics Commission's request for repayment of the money.

Mimi Strauss, chief of enforcement for the commission, said she only received a copy of Bernson's letter explaining his donation idea on Thursday but believes it will satisfy the commission.

"Our preliminary view is that (the donation) complies with the Ethics Commission's request," she said.

Several other city and state officials who also received illegal contributions from Evergreen have repaid the money. Only Bernson and former Mayor Tom Bradley rejected the Ethics Commission's request.

Bernson has argued that he should be allowed to keep the money because he received it not knowing that it had been improperly donated. And he has rejected the commission's authority to order him to repay the money.

"What it amounts to is punishing someone for something they are innocent of," he said.

But in an effort to "show good faith to the people," Bernson said he will raise $11,000 and donate it to police in his district to be used however police decide. He said he sent a letter to the commission explaining his idea.

"We are just prioritizing that money," he said. "We think that there is a greater need in police."

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