Friday, August 17, 2001
Bernson Calls for Criminal Probe Into Padilla’s Replacing Him on LAFCO
By ROBERT GREENE, Staff Writer
Councilman Hal Bernson yesterday called for a probe of his removal from the panel overseeing Valley secession, saying council President Alex Padilla committed “a crime” by promising the slot to Cindy Miscikowski in return for her backing Padilla for council president.
At a City Hall news conference, Bernson charged that Padilla told him privately that he made the deal with Miscikowski.
“According to Mr. Padilla, he promised it to Cindy Miscikowski in return for her vote,” Bernson said of the Local Area Formation Commission appointment. “That is a crime, in my view.”
The MetNews reported Thursday that Padilla ousted Bernson as the city’s representative on the nine-member LAFCO. The panel is currently grappling with the San Fernando Valley cityhood movement and is working toward a citywide vote on Valley secession in the fall of 2002.
Bernson, who helped lead a Valley secession movement in the 1970s, said he is now neutral on the topic. He charged that cityhood opponent Miscikowski would seek to delay a vote until 2005.
Bernson said he asked for a probe by the city Ethics Commission and a criminal inquiry by the City Attorney’s Office.
The 22-year councilman, who backed Ruth Galanter for council president, said he was disappointed but not necessarily surprised at his earlier removal from his longtime post of chairman of the council’s Planning and Land Use Committee.
“I was told that he promised that position to [freshman Councilman Ed] Reyes,” Bernson said of Padilla. “I wasn’t going to complain about it. Until this.”
“This very election [of Padilla as council president] may have been illegally obtained,” Bernson said.
Elected officials are prohibited by state law from trading one vote for another, or from promising favors in return for a vote.
Padilla spokesman David Gershwin scoffed at Bernson’s allegations.
“For Hal Bernson to complain to the Ethics Commission is like Robert Downey Jr. complaining to the Drug Enforcement Administration,” said Gershwin, referring to the addiction-battling actor.
Bernson recently was fined $18,500 by the Ethics Commission for excess contributions he received in his 1999 re-election campaign. It was the second-highest campaign-related fine in city history and Bernson’s third fine since 1997.
Gershwin said there was “no basis” to the charges that Miscikowski’s appointment was the result of a deal.
“Council member Hal Bernson has taken sour grapes to an entirely new level,” Gershwin said.
Miscikowski also denied that she and Padilla made a deal.
“Anyone can bring anything forward to the city attorney or Ethics Commission,” she said of Bernson’s charges. “I don’t think that this rises to that.”
Bernson’s charges come on the heels of an outcry over Padilla’s committee appointments. About 300 African American community leaders came to City Hall last week to protest Padilla’s decision not to include any of the three black council members on committees that deal with housing, and community and economic development. He has since relented and changed some of the assignments.
Copyright 2001, Metropolitan News Company