Thursday, August 9, 2001
Ethics Commission Aproves $18,500 Fine for Bernson
By a MetNews Staff Writer
An agreement under which Councilman Hal Bernson and his campaign treasurer are to pay $18,500 for accepting excess contributions was approved yesterday by the city Ethics Commission.
Bernson and treasurer Leo Howard were charged with taking $11,600 in donations that exceeded the city’s per-person limits for the councilman’s 1999 re-election campaign.
Enforcement director Luis A. Lavin told the panel that $9,504 of the money was returned. The balance could not be given back, Lavin explained, since the campaign fund has been closed out, as required by law.
The panel voted 4-1 to accept the stipulated agreement with Bernson and Howard.
Commission President Miriam Krinsky noted that the donors of excess campaign funds included people and firms with enough sophistication to know better. Longtime city Police Commission member Herbert F. Boeckmann II, owner of Galpin Motors in North Hills, and the Engineers & Architects Assn., one of the largest unions of Los Angeles city employees, were among the excess donors.
“What about the contributors who themselves violated the provision by contributing in excess of the limit?” Krinsky asked Lavin.
Lavin responded that it would be inappropriate to comment in whether his division is pursuing enforcement against the excess donors.
Lavin told the MetNews that the commission has cited donors in the past for excess aggregate contributions to candidates during a single election cycle, but has never fined any donor for giving too much money to a single candidate.
The commission’s action marked the third time Bernson has been fined for violating city campaign and officeholder finance laws.
In October, Bernson agreed to pay $3,000 for accepting free legal services from the law firm of City Hall lobbyist Neil Papiano. The value of the services exceeded the per-donor limit for contributions to elected officials.
The services provided by Iverson, Yoakum, Papiano & Hatch were rendered to help Bernson fight a 1997 charge that he improperly spent officeholder account money on Hollywood Bowl tickets for personal use.
Copyright 2001, Metropolitan News Company