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SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA / A news summary

Ethics Panel Approves Fine Against Bernson

October 31, 2000

LOS ANGELES — The city Ethics Commission Monday ratified a settlement in which Councilman Hal Bernson will pay a $3,000 fine for improperly accepting an excess amount of free legal services from the law firm of City Hall lobbyist Neil Papiano.

The commission also voted to approve a stipulated settlement in which Papiano's law firm agreed to pay $4,000 in fines for providing Bernson with legal services and contributions that exceeded the contribution limit by $4,700.

"We believe the proposed stipulation and fine are fair and appropriate," said Luis Lavin, the head of enforcement for the panel.

During a brief discussion of the issue, Commissioner Dale Bonner questioned the law firm's claim that it didn't know its legal representation of Bernson in a separate ethics issue could be considered a campaign contribution.

Papiano and other members of his law firm provided legal services to Bernson in 1997 when he was fined $1,500 for improperly using his political officeholder account to buy season tickets to the Hollywood Bowl.

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