Thursday, September 6, 2001
San Fernando Valley Activist, Ethics Nominee Fleming Vows to Recuse Himself From LAFCO Issues
By ROBERT GREENE, Staff Writer
Attorney and San Fernando Valley activist David Fleming yesterday vowed to recuse himself from any action the city Ethics Commission might take on identifying donors to the Valley secession movement.
Fleming, who has himself donated to the primary Valley cityhood study group, told a council panel considering his nomination to the Ethics Commission that he would have “no qualms” about discussing his own contributions to Valley VOTE but would not join the debate on whether to compel other donors to identify themselves.
“Like any good judge I would recuse myself from consideration of that issue,” Fleming said.
City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo appointed Fleming to the Ethics Commission last month, just before the panel’s president and executive director sent a letter to the Local Area Formation Commission reiterating their concern over lack of public access to data on the funding of Valley VOTE and other groups studying or supporting secession.
Fleming yesterday won the unanimous recommendation of the City Council’s rules committee, which sent his nomination to the full council.
If confirmed, as expected, he will join the five-member panel at a key moment in the city’s history of campaign finance reform and lobbyist regulation.
This year the commission saw much of its campaign regulatory system unravel with the approval of an initiative that state officials say supersedes Los Angeles laws. Mayor James Hahn has vetoed a long-sought revision to the city’s public matching funds program. Also, the commission found itself in an extended and at times bitter debate over whether to bar campaign consultants from lobbying the officials they helped get elected.
Fleming’s appointment came just weeks after Hahn declined to reappoint him to the Fire Commission. Fleming, who offered Hahn key backing in last spring’s tight mayoral campaign, complained that the new mayor failed to notify him before announcing publicly that he would not keep Fleming on the panel.
The move echoed Gov. Gray Davis’ decision last year not to reappoint Fleming to the state Transportation Commission. Fleming is a Republican; Hahn and Davis are Democrats.
Both decisions resulted in an outcry by Fleming backers.
A Hahn aide said at the time that Fleming might be appointed to another panel. But instead, Delgadillo used his only commission appointment as city attorney to put Fleming on the Ethics Commission.
“David Fleming is a tremendous leader for our city and for his community,” Delgadillo spokesman Ben Austin said. “Rocky believes that he is the best person to represent our city on the Ethics Commission.”
In order to assure the commission’s independence, members’ terms are staggered and no two appointments come from the same appointing authority. The mayor, city controller, city attorney, council president and council president pro tem each get an appointment.
Fleming said he took the panel’s role very seriously.
“It’s kind of a quasi-judicial commission,” he said—a role he contended for which he was well-suited because of his 40-year legal career.
Fleming is of counsel to Latham & Watkins. An Iowa native, he began a career in radio broadcasting before entering UCLA law school and establishing himself in the Valley with a firm that focused on banking and savings and loan law. He was elected chairman of Valley Presbyterian Hospital, became president of the Economic Alliance of the Valley, and the Valley’s Fernando Award.
He became one of the key financial backers of Valley VOTE’s petition for a study of secession in 1998.
In the 1970s he became a Washington lobbyist. But he said his lobbying days are long over, and he would have no conflict in regulating City Hall lobbyists.
In 1996, Fleming joined Mayor Richard Riordan in launching what became the movement to draft and approve the new city charter.
He told the MetNews he long been interested in the Ethics Commission.
“I have followed it since it was formed,” Fleming said. “When Rocky asked me about it I said I would love to do it.”
Copyright 2001, Metropolitan News Company