Friday, January 11, 2002
City Ethics Panel Accepts Padilla Settlement, Sets Procedure for Holden
By ROBERT GREENE, Staff Writer
The city Ethics Commission yesterday accepted a settlement under which Council President Alex Padilla is to pay more than $78,500 in fines and penalties—but not before some panel members expressed concern that Padilla could simply raise the money from campaign donors.
Padilla earlier this week released a statement that he would be repaying the money he received in matching funds in exchange for limiting his spending. He admitted exceeding the spending limit in his 1999 campaign for office after a commission audit found he overspent by more than $54,000.
Under current city law Padilla can raise the money from the same donors who contributed to his election campaigns, and Padilla spokesman David Gershwin said that’s what the council president would do.
That led Commissioner Dale Bonner to suggest Padilla’s statement that he would repay the money was inaccurate.
“It seems to me that what he’s really going to be doing is raising additional funds,” Bonner said.
Some commission members also noted that donors can pay Padilla and other elected officials even more for their legal defense funds than they can for their campaigns. The per-donor limit for a council candidate is $500, but contributors can give up to $1,000 to the legal fund.
Commission President Miriam Krinsky said that disparity is something she and her colleagues may consider revising in the near future.
Krinsky also said the commission should revisit the question of whether elected officials should be able to use legal defense funds to pay fines at all.
Bonner agreed. There was no problem, he said, using defense fund money for paying legal expenses to defend against commission actions, but he said using the money to pay the fines was a different matter entirely.
Padilla was 26 when he was elected to the council in a June 1999 runoff to fill a vacant seat. He benefited from the use of taxpayer funds in his campaign, which he got after agreeing to a spending cap of $275,000—-which he exceeded.
The commission called the level of Padilla’s penalties unprecedented. But the council president’s fine was just $2,500, an amount that has been exceeded in the past for other candidates. The balance of the penalty is actually a repayment of $76,821 in matching funds.
As council president, Padilla is due to appoint a member of the Ethics Commission when Richard Walch, the panel’s vice president, leaves in June.
In a separate commission action arising from allegations of campaign violations in the same 1999 council election, the panel tentatively set a March 22 hearing for Councilman Nate Holden.
Commissioners agreed to a host of demands from the councilman, including data on all candidates whose names appeared on city ballots since 1991, the number of those who were audited, the results of the audits, how the audits were conducted and how such audit procedures have been changed.
The panel also agreed to back Holden’s request that his hearing be aired on the city’s cable channel.
Holden is accused of accepting excess contributions and excess matching funds, and could face penalties of more than $150,000.
Holden, who has been fines for campaign finance violations before, declined to enter into a settlement and demanded a full commission hearing.
Krinsky said attorney Richard Drooyan of Munger, Tolles & Olson has tentatively agreed to hear and make decisions on preliminary matters—requests for discovery, structuring of the hearing process, and motions to disqualify commissioners.
Drooyan headed the Rampart Independent Review Panel, which was established by the Police Commission to look into the scandal in which police officers were alleged to have falsified evidence and to have committed other crimes.
Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company