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Official Asks Help Paying Legal Bill

Probe: Huntington Beach councilman who is accused of conflicts of interest wants city to pay fees and any civil fines.


Huntington Beach City Councilman Dave Garofalo, under investigation by prosecutors for alleged conflicts of interest, has asked the city to cover his attorney fees and pay any civil fines that might be levied against him.

Garofalo said in documents filed with the city that he has paid $30,000 to his lawyer, according to a city official. He also is asking the city to pay future legal fees. The City Council is scheduled to discuss the subject in closed session at Monday's meeting.

The state Fair Political Practices Commission and the Orange County district attorney's office are investigating Garofalo for voting at least 87 times on issues involving advertisers in the city's annual Visitor Guide, which he published for several years.

Prosecutors also are looking at the purchase of a home Garofalo bought in July 1998 for $565,000 and sold a day later to a friend for $625,000. He bought the house after being offered the first lot in a gated tract, jumping ahead of about 300 others on a waiting list.

Garofalo has denied any wrongdoing in his voting record. He said that the higher price for selling his house was due to upgrades he made and that his actual profit was only $1. Garofalo could not be reached for comment Saturday.

Steve Churchwell, a former general counsel of the FPPC who is Garofalo's attorney, said that if his client was acting within the scope of his job, the city is obligated to pay his legal bills for civil matters and to indemnify him for any fine. He said the council can decide to pay his legal bills on a criminal matter if it decides it is in the best interest of the city.

"We're having very great difficulty getting the best and brightest to run for office," he said. "Why would anybody who has a college degree and is bright and could be of service to a city take that job after seeing what happened to Dave Garofalo?"

Several council members said they were surprised when they saw the item on the agenda they received Friday.

Councilwomen Connie Boardman and Debbie Cook said they didn't think the council would approve the request.

"I think the citizens of this community would be outraged if we voted to pay for his legal expenses," said Boardman.

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