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Montgomery Faces New Inquiry Into Finances : Politics: A state agency subpoenas the ex-councilman. He is already awaiting sentencing.

November 03, 1995|SCOTT HADLY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

MOORPARK — Still awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to a felony conflict of interest charge, former Moorpark Councilman Scott Montgomery received a subpoena Thursday from a separate state agency investigating whether he may have violated other campaign finance rules.

Montgomery's attorney, Dan Schmidt, confirmed that the ex-councilman received a subpoena, signed by officials from the state's Fair Political Practices Commission, requesting records from the Committee to Elect Scott Montgomery and demanding that Montgomery appear Nov. 16 to testify under oath.

Montgomery pleaded guilty Oct. 12 to one felony count and one misdemeanor count of conflict of interest for accepting a $3,500 loan from a rubbish company executive and then voting to extend a city trash contract with the firm.

Set to be sentenced Nov. 21, Montgomery faces a possible 3 1/2 years in jail and a $1,000 fine.

But after receiving dozens of letters of support, Schmidt said, Montgomery has had second thoughts about his guilty plea and is considering withdrawing it.

"Just because he wants to withdraw his plea doesn't mean that it's going to happen," Schmidt said.

For Montgomery to be able to withdraw the plea his attorney must show the court that there were either mistakes made during the grand jury inquiry or that the prosecutors were "overreaching" in their attempts to coerce Montgomery into making his plea, Schmidt said.

Regardless, Montgomery has to contend with the state inquiry.

Contacted Thursday at his office, Montgomery said, "I think it's going to have to be a no comment."

State investigators apparently ignored his request to wait until after the sentencing to begin their probe, Schmidt said.

Last year the district attorney's office gave the state commission information dealing with 11 contributions Montgomery received during his unsuccessful campaign for a seat on the Ventura County Board of Supervisors.

The commission was supposed to determine if those contributions exceeded the limits set by a county ordinance, Schmidt said.

County law states that candidates can receive as much as $750 from individuals and businesses during the primary and up to $250 in the general election. Candidates can accept $1,800 from political action committees in the primary, and $600 in the general election.

The Fair Political Practices Commission does not normally get involved in enforcing local ordinances limiting campaign contributions, said Gary Huckaby, a spokesman for the commission.

"There would have to also be some sort violation of state law," Huckaby said. "If, for instance, the true source of the contributor was not divulged."

In addition, the commission could be looking into possible civil penalties for the reported conflict of interest, Schmidt said.

State conflict of interest laws prohibit elected officials from voting on issues affecting individuals or businesses from which they have received financial benefit within a year before a vote or three months after a vote is taken, Huckaby said.

The commission can fine an official up to $2,000 for each violation.

Montgomery could also be questioned about any misstatements or mistakes made in his campaign statements of financial interest. Montgomery never disclosed the $3,500 loan he received or another payment of $12,000 he received in 1992 for computer services he performed for a subsidiary to the trash company. Fines of up to $2,000 for each of those violations can also be levied by the commission, Huckaby said.

"Sometimes there's confusion, and these are acts of omission instead of commission," he said. "Ninety-nine percent of elected officials are scrupulously honest, and almost always want to work with us. They just realized that they screwed up and they want to do whatever they can to clear things up."

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