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VENTURA COUNTY NEWS

Thousand Oaks to Hire Lawyer to Police Campaign Finance Law

September 27, 2000|JENIFER RAGLAND | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

THOUSAND OAKS — City Council members voted 4 to 0 Tuesday to hire a lawyer to investigate violations of the city's rigorous campaign finance ordinance.

Councilman Mike Markey proposed hiring the lawyer, who would act as an independent counsel, saying it was the easiest and cheapest way to enforce the city's strict campaign finance laws.

Councilwoman Linda Parks abstained, saying she didn't feel comfortable as a candidate changing the rules during an election.

Markey, one of seven candidates battling for two open City Council seats up in November, said he has been accused of impropriety in past campaigns and had no way to vindicate himself. City Atty. Mark Sellers has said he cannot investigate his elected bosses or their political challengers.

The city's ordinance--the cornerstone of which is a $250-per-donor contribution cap--was enacted in 1998 after the bitter and expensive effort to oust then-Councilwoman Elois Zeanah. That contest cost more than $500,000--the most in Thousand Oaks history.

"The key to campaign finance regulations is enforcement," said Councilman Andy Fox. "Without it, you just have an empty requirement."

Campaign money promises to be a high-profile issue in this year's election because of Ed Masry's candidacy. The environmental and consumer attorney made famous in the hit movie "Erin Brockovich" has said he will spend whatever it takes to win a seat on the council. He and Parks are running together on a slow-growth platform.

There is no limit on how much an individual can spend on his or her own campaign, but the City Council has asked candidates to stay within a voluntary $25,000 cap.

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