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Thousand Oaks Probes Vote on Law Firm Payment

November 25, 2000|JENIFER RAGLAND

The Thousand Oaks city attorney's office is investigating whether a 2-1 City Council vote authorizing a $15,000 payment to a Los Angeles law firm violated city codes.

Attorneys at Winston & Strawn asked the council for the extra cash to wrap up their probe into alleged campaign finance improprieties against five candidates who ran for office in the November election.

Because council members Linda Parks and Michael Markey were among the five candidates being investigated, they abstained from the Nov. 14 vote. Councilman Dan Del Campo dissented, arguing that the taxpayers shouldn't have to pay for what he believed to be politically motivated complaints filed against candidates by rival camps.

According to the municipal code, three affirmative votes are required to approve payments.

Council member-elect Edward L. Masry, a Westlake Village attorney who is also named in a campaign finance complaint, said although his law firm doesn't specialize in municipal codes, he believes based on an initial review that the vote was not valid.

Scott Mitnick, deputy city manager, said Del Campo asked the city attorney's office to look into the issue. An opinion is expected to be issued Monday.

Markey recommended the council retain the independent law firm because, he argued, the city's campaign finance reforms--limiting contributions to $250, among other things--otherwise had no enforcement teeth.

In September, the council agreed to pay the firm up to $10,000. The volume of complaints received, however, required an extra $15,000, to complete the investigation and submit a report, said Winston & Strawn attorney Marc Harris.

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