Anaheim is considering revision or repeal of a tough campaign-finance law that a special prosecutor used last year to charge the mayor and two City Council members with criminal campaign abuses.
The City Council on Tuesday scheduled a workshop for May 4 to discuss the issue, which has divided its members for four months.
"We really need more time," said Councilwoman Shirley McCracken, leader of the effort to repeal the city's campaign-reform law.
Though fewer than 15% of California cities set limits on local campaign contributions, several in Orange County do so, among them Irvine, Santa Ana, Orange and Mission Viejo.
Anaheim adopted its election law in 1993, limiting individual campaign contributions to $1,000 for local candidates and allowing the city attorney or a special prosecutor hired by the council to investigate allegations of campaign abuses.
A bitter 1 1/2-year political scandal erupted after McCracken, Mayor Tom Daly and Councilman Frank Feldhaus were accused of violating city and state campaign laws in the 1996 election.
The charges were filed by special prosecutor Ravi Mehta, former chairman of the California Fair Political Practices Commission, whom the City Council hired and later fired amid accusations that his investigation, which cost the city more than $300,000, had run amok.
The charges against Daly were eventually dismissed. McCracken and Feldhaus were fined a total of $16,500.
McCracken paid a $6,500 fine for failing to list in a 1996 campaign report the occupations and employers of 35 contributors, as required by state law. He called the omissions an "honest mistake." Feldhaus paid a $10,000 fine for violating reporting requirements.
In January, some council members asked City Atty. Jack L. White to draft proposals to revise or repeal the ordinance. Those proposals will be the focus of the May workshop.
One revision would remove criminal liability for campaign violations and prohibit the hiring of a special counsel. A candidate who breaks the local spending limit would pay a maximum fine of $2,500 to the city.
If Anaheim repeals its ordinance, candidates for city positions still would have to abide by state election laws, which require full disclosure of contributions but do not limit donations.
State voters in 1996 approved Proposition 208, which limited individual contributions to local candidates to $500 per election cycle in cities with more than 100,000 residents. In cities with under 100,000, contributions are limited to $250.
In 1998, a federal judge declared Proposition 208 unconstitutional. The decision is being appealed, however, and until the case is settled, any municipal campaign limits passed before Proposition 208 remain in effect.