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Councilman Won't Give Up Police Weapon at Meetings

Chuck Conlosh, who may face campaign law fines, keeps gun in reach despite his Fountain Valley colleagues' objections.

October 13, 2000|H.G. REZA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Fountain Valley Councilman Chuck Conlosh, who may face $30,000 in fines for failure to file campaign statements from as far back as three years ago, has stirred new controversy by insisting on placing his police-issued handgun on the dais during council meetings.

Conlosh, a veteran Huntington Beach police officer elected to the Fountain Valley council in 1996, said he will continue to place the weapon in a fanny pack within easy reach despite objections from three council members who say the gun makes them uncomfortable.

"It's very bizarre. It's intimidating to residents who speak and take an opposing view, knowing there is a loaded weapon within inches of his hand," Councilwoman Laurann Cook said. "I've had residents tell me it bothers them a great deal."

State law allows sworn peace officers to carry a concealed weapon, and Conlosh said he will continue to carry his semiautomatic 9mm Glock to council meetings.

"It's inside a fanny pack. Nobody can see it. I don't think I've ever shown the gun to anybody at the council. I don't see how anybody can be offended because I carry it in a fanny pack. I carry my wallet, car keys, pager, credit cards and checkbook in the pack as well," Conlosh explained.

The councilman said he carries the gun everywhere for protection "from some pretty bad people I've arrested over the years."

This explanation raised a new concern for Councilman John Collins, already uncomfortable "knowing there's a gun in his fanny pack facing in my or somebody else's direction."

"He says he carries the weapon for protection from people who might want to get him," Collins said. "Well, if that's true it concerns me. I sit next to him in the meetings, and if there are people out there who are coming after him I may end up an unintended target."

Conlosh, who is running for reelection, said the controversy over his gun, as well as a report from the city clerk's office that he failed to file four campaign disclosure statements in 1997 and 1998, are both part of an attempt to influence the November election.

"The city has had this paperwork and known about the reports for four years," Conlosh said. "Doesn't it seem pretty suspicious that this would surface a few weeks before the election?"

City Clerk Susan Lynn said Conlosh could face fines of as much as $30,000 for the delinquent filings. At one point, Conlosh had failed to file eight campaign disclosure statements, including required paperwork for an unsuccessful 1998 Assembly race.

Conlosh and his campaign treasurer, David Gould, blamed the city clerk's office for failing to notify Conlosh that the statements had to be filed.

"I was under the understanding that everything was filed. It was about three weeks ago that this was brought to my attention by the clerk's office," Conlosh said. "Why didn't they tell me earlier, and why are they releasing this information publicly so close to the election?"

Councilman Larry Crandall, who also criticized Conlosh for bringing the handgun to council meetings, said his colleague is irresponsible for failing to file the campaign statements.

"It's called personal responsibility. It's the law. He's a police officer who took an oath both as a council member and officer to uphold the Constitution and all laws," Crandall said.

Conlosh said he did not intend to flaunt campaign laws.

"It was a total shock to me that I supposedly missed filing some paperwork," he said.

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