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Judge clears San Gabriel Valley official in conflict-of-interest case

August 14, 2013|By Richard Winton

A Los Angeles County Superior Court judge has dismissed the entire criminal case against former San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments executive director Nicholas Conway, saying he did nothing wrong.

The Los Angeles County district attorney's office, which last year filed four conflict-of-interest felonies counts against Conway, said recently that it was still reviewing its options whether to appeal the decision made by a judge earlier this month.

Judge Norm Shapiro ruled there was "no crime here, period" and essentially agreed that Conway acted openly and publicly in his handling of the contracts.

Judge Shapiro agreed with arguments by Conway's legal team of former federal prosecutor Ken White and former state Atty. Gen. John Van de Kamp that Conway was doing exactly what the council of governments directed and never violated the conflict-of-interest laws. In addition, the judge found all the actions were done in public with legal review.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Dana Aratani had alleged that Conway exploited his position ahead of the joint powers authority, which coordinates efforts among 31 cities, three water districts and county supervisors for the region.

The charges cover a period between 2008 and 2011 and relate to grants involving the local watershed, an energy initiative and energy conservation.

Prosecutors allege that Conway violated a state law barring public officials from having a financial interest in any contract made by them in their official capacity. Conway owns Arroyo Associates Inc., a firm he created in 1990 that provides management services to the council.

Under an agreement between the council and Arroyo, the firm got more money to manage specific state and county grants, which Conway obtained as executive director, prosecutors allege.

According to the Pasadena Star News, in granting the defense's motion to dismiss the case, the judge noted political differences with some council members. "People in city government maybe had an ax to grind with Mr. Conway," he said in court.

In the dismissing the case, the judge cited the case of Karen Christiansen, a contractor for the Beverly Hills Unified School District whose convictions for conflict-of-interest felonies were overturned on appeal in May with the court ruling because she was not an employee, Christiansen was not subject to the conflict-of-interest law.

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Twitter: @lacrimes| Google+

richard.winton@latimes.com

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