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Convention Center Leader Resigns Over Alleged Conflict

March 21, 2003|Patrick McGreevy | Times Staff Writer

Peter Zen, president of the Los Angeles Convention Center Commission, has resigned from the panel after opponents protested his involvement in legal action challenging the proposed construction of a hotel next to the center.

Mayor James K. Hahn appointed Zen to the commission more than a year ago, but he was a lightning rod for criticism during his tenure as president.

More than 30 community activists attended the commission's meeting Wednesday, alleging that Zen has a conflict of interest. Although he denies a conflict, Zen said late Wednesday that he had told Deputy Mayor Troy Edwards that he would resign from the commission, effective March 31.

"If everyone feels that there is a conflict, then the way to address that is to step down and not let Mayor Hahn take any more flak for this," Zen said. "I feel I do not want the mayor to be burdened."

A group of business and labor leaders, including William Luddy, executive director of the Carpenters/Contractors Cooperation Committee, first called last month for Zen to quit. They said that, as operator of the Westin Bonaventure Hotel, Zen had a conflict in trying to stop the city from building a competing hotel next to the Convention Center.

Zen said Wednesday that he had simply filed a legal brief questioning the city's providing public subsidies for a hotel and had done so only after the city asked a court to validate the creation of a special corporation to provide tax-exempt financing for the project.

Critics, Zen said, "don't understand: I am not suing the city; the city is suing me."

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