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Valley Politicians Quick to Jump Into Rampart Spotlight

POLITICAL BRIEFING

March 23, 2000|PATRICK McGREEVY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

City Councilman Joel Wachs of Studio City one day last week shuttled from a national interview on CBS television to one beamed around the world on CNN.

The subject was how he and the city are grappling with the worst police corruption scandal in Los Angeles history: the unfolding allegations that officers at Rampart Division beat, shot and framed innocent people.

Although Rampart is far from the San Fernando Valley, Wachs is one of a group of council members representing the Valley who have offered a flood of proposals and motions in response to the corruption allegations.

Wachs called for an outside investigation of the allegations in two separate motions--both of which were shelved this week by a council committee.

Why are Valley council members jumping into the Rampart spotlight?

Wachs, Mike Feuer and Laura Chick say their primary motive is to make sure the LAPD can regain the public trust.

Among the three, half a dozen motions have been filed calling for various actions on the scandal.

The initiatives have been so numerous that Council President John Ferraro took the unusual step this week of ordering an end to Rampart motions being brought directly to the council.

Feuer said his role as chairman of the council's Budget and Finance Committee partly explains his leadership on the financial issues involving the scandal.

"This is certainly the key issue for city government right now and it's incumbent on all of us to step up to the plate," Feuer said.

But others at City Hall are grumbling that there is more at work.

"Isn't Wachs running for mayor?" Councilman Nate Holden asked. "Isn't Feuer running for city attorney? Isn't Chick running for city controller?"

Without naming names, Councilman Hal Bernson complained during a council meeting that people will continue to make political hay of the Rampart scandal until the elections are over.

"We are seeing a lot of motions from people running for office," a third council member groused privately. "It is less an issue of geography and Valley districts than politics and people running for office wanting to appear to be doing something."

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EASY TARGET: Colleagues of Bernson said they would have no shortage of material at their disposal for a political roast of the Valley councilman that was scheduled for Wednesday night.

Mayor Richard Riordan, Ferraro and County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky were among those scheduled to attend the third annual Los Angeles Political Roast to benefit the Los Angeles chapter of the American Diabetes Assn.

Yaroslavsky planned to poke fun at Bernson's seeming obsession with the minutiae of earthquake science and planning. The Granada Hills resident has long served on the state Seismic Safety Commission.

"He's dull," Yaroslavsky joked. "Hal's idea of a good time is comparing Richter scale measurements on various faults around the Pacific Rim."

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ETHICS COMPLAINT: Neighbors of a mansion being built in Studio City are complaining that the owners appear to have an inside track at City Hall.

The neighbors, who allege the house exceeds city size limits, have questioned whether the former president of the city Building and Safety Commission, whose law firm is representing the owners of the house, has attempted to exercise influence to get building inspectors to lift a stop-work order on the project.

City rules prohibit commissioners from lobbying their former city agencies for a year after they step down.

A complaint filed with the city Ethics Commission questions whether Encino attorney Lee Kanon Alpert lobbied the Building and Safety Department.

Alpert, who left the building commission in September to head the Los Angeles Board of Neighborhood Commissioners, denied that he has ever attempted to influence city building officials, including department General Manager Andrew Adelman, on behalf of clients of his law firm.

"I talk to Andrew about a lot of things, but I have never asked him to do anything on any matter," Alpert said.

Alpert posed for pictures with Adelman and his wife after receiving the Fernando Award for volunteerism on March 10, the same day that Adelman's office partially lifted a stop-work order on the project on Ione Drive.

The requests to lift the stop-work order were made in letters from Alpert's law firm to the building agency, signed by partner Gary L. Barr.

Alpert's name appears four times in the letterhead of a March 7 letter by Barr to building officials on the issue. Barr signed the letter "for Alpert and Barr, a professional law corporation."

"We ask for you to immediately authorize our clients to lift the 'stop orders' and to continue development of the interior of their project," Barr writes. "We request your immediate action on reinstating the permit as requested above. Please fax us your response."

The use of the term "our clients" after listing Alpert's name appears to be using the former commissioner's name to influence his former department, neighbors say.

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