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Council Urged to Act on Ethics

October 26, 2002|Patrick McGreevy | Times Staff Writer

The Los Angeles Ethics Commission asked the City Council on Friday to end more than a year of delays and impose rules that would bar elected officials from acting on city matters involving lobbyists and contractors who help them raise campaign money.

In urging quick action, Commission President Miriam Krinsky cited concerns about the $8 million raised so far in the secession campaigns. Mayor James K. Hahn and City Council members have together raised about $6.5 million to fight San Fernando Valley and Hollywood secession measures, with much of the money coming from city contractors and lobbyists.

"Certainly some of concerns raised by the public regarding fund-raising involving secession does indicate the public would want rules in place that eliminate even the perception of influence over decision-making," Krinsky said.

An anti-secession committee formed by City Councilwoman Cindy Miscikowski has enlisted City Hall lobbyist Steven Afriat to raise funds.

A recent fund-raiser for the committee was hosted by Sunshine Canyon Landfill lobbyist Arnie Bergoff, billboard industry lobbyist Ken Spiker Jr. and cable industry lobbyist Maureen Kindel.

The Ethics Commission voted Aug. 31, 2001, to ask the council to prohibit elected officials from acting on matters handled by a lobbyist who has directly contributed or helped raise more then $1,000 for the official in the previous 12 months.

The rules would also bar council members and the mayor from acting on matters involving city contractors who have contributed more than $1,000 in the previous 12 months.

The commission recommended that the rules also apply to any campaign committee the officials control, including those for ballot measures such as the Nov. 5 secession proposals.

But council members have indicated they will not extend the rules to committees for ballot measures. The issue has been stalled in the council's Rules and Elections Committee for about 14 months.

In a letter to the council Friday, the commission said: "As public concern has continued to grow during these intervening months about the large sums of money that are being raised by lobbyists and contractors who have business before the public agencies and officials they attempt to influence, the importance of the [proposed ethics rules] have only been reinforced."

The letter also said the rules, "would help foster trust by limiting the potential for undue access and influence of lobbyists" on elected officials.

Council President Alex Padilla, who chairs the Rules and Elections Committee, said he has not intentionally bottled up the recommendation. He said he is awaiting additional information from Chief Legislative Analyst Ron Deaton.

Deaton said he is reviewing alternatives and hopes to report back to the committee in December. He said the language of the proposed rules is complicated and he does not want to offer the committee a "shoot-from-the-hip analysis" of it.

Padilla's own anti-secession committee has received contributions from city contractors, including the public relations firm Fleishman Hillard and lobbyists Al Avila and Kindel. But Padilla said the money does not influence his decisions.

"These are all people who agree we should keep the city of Los Angeles together," Padilla said.

Meanwhile, the commission released new secession contribution reports Friday. The campaigns are required to report any new contributions of more than $1,000 within 24 hours of receiving them. The reports show that Hahn's anti-secession committee received $392,000 worth of air time from Univision Communications Inc., a Spanish-language television network.

Hollywood Independence Committee Chairman Gene La Pietra gave $41,000 more to his campaign, and Studio City lawyer David Fleming contributed $25,000 to the Valley cityhood effort.

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