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No evidence Coliseum chief illegally sought USC job, agency says

The California Fair Political Practices Commission had been checking a tip that John Sandbrook violated a conflict-of-interest law.

August 10, 2012|By Rong-Gong Lin II and Paul Pringle, Los Angeles Times
  • John Sandbrook is interim general manager of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
John Sandbrook is interim general manager of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles…)

California's political watchdog agency said it was unable to substantiate allegations that the interim head of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum illegally sought a job with USC while he was responsible for protecting taxpayers in talks to turn over control of the stadium to the university.

"There was no evidence of a negotiation for that specific job," Gary Winuk, enforcement chief at the Fair Political Practices Commission, said Thursday.

The state agency said in a July 23 letter to the acting general manager, John Sandbrook, that it had received an anonymous tip that he might have violated a state law governing the conduct of public officials. They are not allowed to use their positions to influence government decisions that could affect someone with whom they are seeking a job.

Sandbrook advocated giving USC stewardship of the Coliseum and adjacent Sports Arena for at least 42 years. His bosses, the Coliseum Commission, approved the USC deal in May.

A Coliseum lawyer said at that time that Sandbrook did not negotiate with USC "on his own behalf for any form of employment." USC was not a target of the fair practices inquiry.

Sandbrook did not respond to a request for comment late Thursday.

After retiring from the University of California, where he was a manager, Sandbrook was recruited to run the Coliseum by County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky in the midst of a bribery and conflict-of-interest scandal.

Scrutiny of the Coliseum began after the 2010 death of a 15-year-old girl who had overdosed on the drug Ecstasy at a rave at the stadium. It intensified after the Times reported in early 2011 that a manager at the venue was receiving money from a rave company he was overseeing in his government job.

Last March, after Times reports detailing profitable side jobs and kickbacks that went to Coliseum managers, the Los Angeles County district attorney's office secured the indictments of six men — three former Coliseum managers, a janitorial contractor and two rave company executives — on charges of corruption.

Patrick Lynch, who was general manager before Sandbrook was brought in, has pleaded guilty to a single count of conflict of interest and has paid the Coliseum $385,000 as restitution for alleged kickbacks. The two other managers and two rave company executives have pleaded not guilty. The janitorial contractor, who is at large, has said he did nothing wrong.

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