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Probe of EIDC Moves East

D.A.'s investigators, FBI search the Pittsburgh Film Office in connection with questionable agency donations.

November 06, 2002|Steve Berry and Anita M. Busch | Times Staff Writers

The Los Angeles County district attorney's probe into alleged misuse of public funds by the Entertainment Industry Development Corp. and its president spread to Pennsylvania Tuesday.

Five Los Angeles investigators from the district attorney's office searched the Pittsburgh Film Office and the home of its commissioner, Dawn Keezer, a friend of EIDC President Cody Cluff. Investigators also searched the Mendelson Gallery in Pittsburgh.

The searches are in connection with $5,000 donations from the EIDC, which coordinates the issuing of film permits in Los Angeles County, to the Pittsburgh Film Office in each of the last two years, according to David Demerjian, head of the district attorney's public integrity division. Two other sources told The Times the search of the Mendelson Gallery was in connection with a painting Cluff purchased there and shipped back to Los Angeles, where he hung it in the EIDC's Hollywood office.

Investigators from the Allegheny County district attorney's office and the FBI joined Los Angeles officials in the searches.

Cluff, whose agency is also responsible for promoting Los Angeles as a film production site, would not comment Tuesday. In the past, he has defended giving $10,000 to Keezer's office, saying it was beneficial to the L.A. film industry. He said he believed it was important to support Keezer because, as president of a national organization of film commissioners called FilmUS, she "has led the charge" to keep filmmaking in the U.S.

He also has said the EIDC has given money to other state and national organizations, including money to support events of the San Jose Film Commission and the Assn. of International Commercial Producers.

Prosecutors have alleged in court papers that the misuse of funds by Cluff and the EIDC includes money spent for personal expense accounts and political contributions made by the agency to elected officials who serve on the corporation's board of directors and executive committee.

The raids were the third round of multiple searches by the district attorney's office in its investigation of Cluff and the EIDC.

Tuesday's searches began when investigators approached Keezer as she got off a plane at Pittsburgh International Airport after a trip to Los Angeles, said her attorney, Stanton Levenson. He said they seized her laptop computer and personal papers.

Another source said investigators also searched her luggage.

Levenson said Keezer would not comment on the search. "She was pretty shaken by this," he said.

Levenson said he did not know what authorities seized from her office and home, but one source said payroll records of FilmUS and a list of its staff members were among the items they wanted.

Cluff, who is acting secretary of FilmUS, said he made the donation after learning the group might lose its funding. It was "in recognition of the leadership role Keezer played in the federal tax relief effort and the critical need for an articulate, dedicated spokesperson who is not from Los Angeles."

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