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Usually Quiet Races Heat Up for a Change : City prosecutor and city auditor incumbents face serious challenges.

March 24, 1994|EMILY ADAMS | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Two hotly contested races have surfaced in a surprising quarter in Long Beach as the incumbent city auditor and city prosecutor face serious opposition.

Most years, the races for these offices and that of city attorney generate little more than a collective yawn as incumbents run unopposed.

But this year, Councilman Evan Anderson Braude is providing the first challenge in 16 years to City Prosecutor John A. Vander Lans. In the city auditor's race, incumbent Gary L. Burroughs is opposed by Willy Molnar, who owns an accounting firm.

Only the city attorney's race is holding true to form. Incumbent John R. Calhoun, who is seeking his third term, is unopposed in the April 12 election.

In the auditor's race, Burroughs and Molnar have traded barbs over experience and trust.

Two weeks ago, Molnar distributed a letter from a former employee in the auditor's office, accusing Burroughs of pressuring city employees to sell Amway products for him on city time four years ago, when he was assistant city auditor. Molnar said he received the unsolicited letter recently from Chris Kikuchi Kamens, a former auditor in the office. Molnar called for Burroughs to resign.

Burroughs denied selling or asking anyone to sell cleaning products on city time. His wife has an Amway distribution business, but Burroughs said he is not involved in it. He said the allegations were made by a disgruntled former employee.

Earlier in the campaign, Molnar successfully fended off a legal effort by a Burroughs supporter, former city auditor Robert Fronke, to have Molnar's name removed from the ballot.

The lawsuit contended that Molnar failed to meet a City Charter requirement that the city auditor have at least five years' experience as a certified public accountant. Molnar earned a CPA certificate in Michigan in 1987, but had let it lapse when he moved to California in 1989. A judge ruled that Molnar was qualified.

Burroughs, 50, says experience is the most important campaign issue. He was appointed to his post after Fronke retired in 1992, and is seeking his first full term. He joined the auditor's office in 1986. Molnar, 34, cites ethics and trust as the paramount issues.

In the prosecutor's race, Braude has accused Vander Lans of being soft on slumlords and code enforcement cases, which usually involve dilapidated buildings.

"Out of 16 prosecutors, there is only one deputy assigned half-time to code enforcement cases," said Braude, 47, a former city attorney for Los Angeles. "I would assign at least one full-time, maybe two people. These cases have to be prosecuted."

Vander Lans, 63, denies there is any problem with the way he runs his 29-employee office, which prosecutes misdemeanors for the city.

"I'm told that we don't have any slumlords in Long Beach," Vander Lans said, adding that his office is diligent in prosecuting city code violators.

Since there are only two candidates running in both the races for auditor and prosecutor, the April 12 election will determine the winners.

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