Thursday, August 15, 2002
Former District Attorney Gil Garcetti Nominated to City Ethics Commission
By ROBERT GREENE, Staff Writer
Former Los Angeles District Attorney Gil Garcetti was appointed yesterday to a five-year term on the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission by City Council President Alex Padilla.
If the selection is approved by the City Council, Garcetti will be one of five commissioners who recommend changes in city campaign finance and lobbying laws and who sit in judgment on city officials accused of violating those laws.
Garcetti would succeed Richard Walch, executive director of the Los Angeles County Bar Association. Walch, a former commission president, left the panel in July at the conclusion of his second term. He was appointed to the panel by the late council president John Ferraro.
The Ethics Commission seat is the only official city commission appointment vested in the council president. Garcetti is Padilla’s first selection for the post.
“Gil Garcetti’s 32 years of experience in the District Attorney’s Office and his strong leadership as Los Angeles County’s top prosecutor make him eminently qualified to serve on the City Ethics Commission,” Padilla said.
The former district attorney, who was first elected to that position in 1992, said he looks forward to serving on the five-member panel, which enforces and creates the city’s laws regarding ethics, campaign finance and lobbying.
“I have always been committed to the full enforcement of ethics laws, and I am honored to have this opportunity to serve the residents of the city of Los Angeles,” Garcetti said.
In his first re-election campaign in 1996, in which he narrowly defeated challenger John Lynch, Garcetti battled charges that he gave special treatment to campaign contributors, protecting the relatives of some supporters against prosecution and forming a special task force to crack down on trademark infringement at the behest of a clothing magnate.
But his biggest challenge at the time was to overcome the impression that his office failed in the long and costly double murder prosecution of O.J. Simpson.
Garcetti was defeated for re-election in 2000 by Steve Cooley in a campaign that was clouded by the Rampart police scandal. Garcetti openly squabbled with then-Los Angeles Police Chief Bernard Parks over access to information about officers who were accused or suspected of misconduct.
At one point in 2000, Parks backed out of an especially bitter feud by saying publicly that it had been a mistake for him to get into a personality clash with “an individual with a sagging political career.”
Earlier this year, Parks was himself denied a second term as police chief. He is now running for the City Council—which means that Garcetti could be in a position to scrutinize his old adversary’s campaign records.
The ex-district attorney would also have some oversight over the campaigning of his son, Councilman Eric Garcetti, although it is generally thought that the elder Garcetti would have to recuse himself from any votes concerning his son.
Of more significance may be the fact that Garcetti would become the first former elected official to serve on the watchdog panel and would for the first time bring the perspective of someone who has raised and spent campaign funds.
The Ethics Commission generally has sought to even the playing field between wealthy or experienced candidates and those who bring less personal wealth and political experience to the campaign.
Rulings by the panel have become increasingly severe as elected officials continue to commit campaign fundraising breaches. Padilla was fined a record $79,000 early this year for cheating on matching fund rules and contribution limits in his 1999 campaign.
As a county candidate, Gil Garcetti did not face contribution limits in his initial 1992 campaign or the 1996 re-election effort. But county caps were in place by the 2000 campaign.
The Ethics Commission still has one vacancy, created by the departure earlier this year of attorney David Fleming.
Fleming left to campaign for San Fernando Valley secession, and City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo nominated Rev. Cecil Murray of the First African Methodist Episcopal Church to succeed him. But Murray last week quietly withdrew from the process, saying he believed it was more important to serve the community as an advocate than as a neutral.
The mayor, city attorney, city controller, council president and president pro tem each have an appointment to the Ethics Commission. Members serve a maximum of two five-year terms.
Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company