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Political Briefing

Afriat, Braude Fellow Travelers on the Not-So-Subtle Shuttle


What appeared to be an innocuous debate over a shuttle bus contract at City Hall this week turned into an eyebrow-raising lesson in ethics, or the lack of same.

Mayflower Laidlaw Transit Inc. has for years operated shuttle bus services in Van Nuys, Studio City, the Crenshaw and Fairfax districts and South Los Angeles for the city.

Hoping to get a better contract, the city's Department of Transportation recommended seeking bids from companies that may be interested in taking over the shuttles. Until a new contract is signed, the department proposed a month-to-month contract with Laidlaw until July 1.

But Laidlaw's representative, Steve Afriat, urged the council to instead extend the contract for an entire year.

That's when Councilman Marvin Braude stepped in, urging his colleagues to approve the one-year extension.

What made all of this ethically questionable is that Afriat, in addition to being Laidlaw's consultant, is Braude's campaign consultant. While city ethics officials said Braude's involvement raises questions, they said there is no law prohibiting elected officials from taking action on a contract that's being boosted by a campaign employee.

Asked about the situation, Afriat said he saw no reason for concern because he has not yet been hired by Braude as a campaign consultant.

But in fact, Braude's latest reelection campaign report lists Afriat as accepting payment for "professional management and consulting services."

Glen Barr, Braude's media aide, said Afriat is indeed Braude's consultant but there is no conflict of interest because "we make a very strong effort to separate" Afriat's work with Laidlaw and his work with Braude.

In the end, the council rejected Braude's proposal for the one-year extension and instead voted to extend a month-to-month contract with Laidlaw until a new contract is signed.

Close Lines

At year's end, retiring Reps. Anthony C. Beilenson and Carlos J. Moorhead may be tempted to grab a few boxes and run. But a study distributed to outgoing lawmakers cautions them to plan in advance for their departures to avoid last-minute headaches.

"Closing a congressional office can be a 'nightmare,' " the report by the Congressional Management Foundation says. "Or it can be a relatively smooth transition for the member and staff."

Among the tips for outgoing legislators:

--"Your employees may respond to the prospect of closing the office in a number of negative ways. Although there is a sense on the Hill that all is transitory, the shock of facing the end of a relationship with a particular team may be traumatic. . . . To maintain morale and productivity, you should support employees, keep communication open, and maintain an active involvement in addressing their concerns."

--Help the staff obtain new jobs but do not "promise what you can't deliver."

--Use various colored stickers to separate items that will go to the member's home, the archives or other places. One staffer recalled his boss promising to give the same photograph of the home state Capitol to three different people.

--"Remind staffers that they can't wander off to their new office carrying their Rolodex and their stapler. Those items belong to the office."

--Return library books. One lawmaker was once left holding a $700 bill for Library of Congress books borrowed by staffers on his behalf but never returned.

For Pete's Sake

Although she's a Jewish professional woman from the Valley at a meeting of same, Gov. Pete Wilson's advisor Rosalie Zalis expected to be in the minority Wednesday night.

Zalis was the lone Republican voice on a panel at the annual dinner meeting of Jewish Business & Professional Women. The panel discussion centered on how the changing political scene will affect professional women, a topic that by its very nature includes affirmative action.

That can be a touchy subject any time, but especially with the Wilson-backed California Civil Rights Initiative on the ballot in November.

The panel did not disappoint, with Zalis and former Los Angeles City Councilwoman Joy Picus, an affirmative action supporter, providing the cross-fire.

"The Jewish way and the women's way is individual performance," said Zalis, whose duties include advising the governor on both constituencies. "It wasn't affirmative action that got us here. It was the changes in society."

Picus said the initiative would gut women's rights, then lambasted Wilson for good measure. "[It] was created as a political ploy by a governor who thrives on the politics of fear and divisiveness, to play on the anxiety and anger of a hostile electorate."

Zalis cried foul at what she called a "cheap shot" directed at a man she admires. "I came here tonight in the spirit of bipartisanship," said Zalis, extolling her boss' record on women's issues.

Water Gate

That simmering Valley-versus-the-rest-of-Los-Angeles feud boiled up again this week, when the City Council voted to allow residents to install meters that measure sewage discharge.

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