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Wednesday
Aug182010

Almost $900,000 in loans from the city of Bell to its employees and top officials....

* Is it actually possible for yet another tale of questionable dealings by officials in Bell?  The answer appears to be "yes."  Los Angeles Times report today begins as follows:

    The city of Bell gave nearly $900,000 in loans to former City Administrator Robert Rizzo, city employees and at least two council members in the last several years, according to records reviewed by The Times. 

    The documents show that Bell's former assistant city manager, Angela Spaccia, received two loans of at least $100,000 each and that council members Oscar Hernandez and Luis Artiga received $20,000 loans. Rizzo, whose huge salary sparked a scandal that forced him and other city officials to step down, received two loans for $80,000 each, city officials said.  Neither Hernandez nor Artiga reported the loans on their state financial disclosure forms for 2009, which is required under state law.

*And continuing:

   The loans raise new questions about how officials were compensated in Bell. The Times revealed last month that top city administrators were among the highest paid in the nation, sparking outrage and investigations by both L.A. County prosecutors and the California attorney general.

Wednesday
Aug182010

Complaint about "conflict of interest" at the Port of L.A.? Company asking for Board of Referred Powers to take over?

* Sort of seems these days that, failing other avenues, an increasingly popular way to challenge decisions regarding city contracts or projects is to claim that decisionmakers have a conflict of interest.  Latest situation where this is taking place is at the Port of Los Angeles, where Gambol Industries is claiming that the Board of Harbor Commissioners should not be allowed to participate in decisions relating to Gambol's efforts to build a new shipyard because of conflicts of interest within the board.  From the Daily Breeze:

   As its options are just about to run out, a company wanting to build a $50 million shipyard at the Port of Los Angeles has leveled conflict-of-interest allegations, officials said Tuesday.  Executives with Long Beach-based Gambol Industries claim the Los Angeles Board of Harbor Commissioners should not be allowed to decide the shipyard's fate due to alleged conflicts by two board members and the fact that the commission president's term has expired.

   The move comes just as the harbor commission was expected on Thursday to decide whether to cut off exclusive negotiations with Gambol Industries based on findings that the company's proposed shipyard is not commercially viable and would likely delay the port's Main Channel deepening project.

   ****

   Port officials said they are reviewing the claims made by Gambol Industries, which wants to open a ship repair business on the site of the shuttered Southwest Marine slips at Terminal Island.  "We received Gambol's inquiry and we are reviewing its substance, we are investigating their concerns and we are formulating a response," said port spokesman Phillip Sanfield.

   Gambol's attorneys are now asking City Attorney Carmen Trutanich to send the matter to the Board of Referred Powers, a panel comprised of five Los Angeles City Council members, including Councilwoman Janice Hahn.  Hahn was forced to step down in February as an arbitrator between the port and Gambol after the Daily Breeze reported that Stein and the law firm representing Gambol had made $12,000 worth of contributions to her City Council officeholder account and her failed campaign for lieutenant governor. 

   Stein also contributed $1,000 to Trutanich's run for city attorney last year, according to city records. Hahn declined to comment on the conflict-of-interest allegations raised by Gambol

 

Tuesday
Aug172010

Blagojevich verdict: guilty of one charge (making false statements to the FBI), mistrial on remaining 23 counts...

* What a tale to tell....  As for details and what next, here is excerpt from Los Angeles Times report:

   The jury's decisions denied Blagojevich the sweeping exoneration he has insisted would eventually be his ever since his 2008 arrest by federal agents who accused him of being the ringleader of a wide ranging plot to shake down state contractors and other politicians. And he may now have to try and persuade a fresh set of jurors of his innocence.

   The turn of events also represents a stunning and rare setback for U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, who in his nine years in the post has secured a near unbroken string of high profile corruption convictions of public officials, including former Gov. George Ryan.

   The 23 deadlocked counts call into question the wisdom of a mid-trial decision to streamline the government case by not calling several key witnesses to testify.  On the flip side, the outcome could be seen as validation of a last minute decision by Blagojevich's lawyers not to have him testify or mount a defense at all--despite explicit promises that they would do just that expressed to the jury in opening statements in early June.

   Though his ultimate fate remains undecided, the legal proceedings have left Blagojevich deeply in debt and a retrial would likely widen the hole.

   His political career is also in shambles and he is barred by the Illinois Constitution from attempting to revive it. He was impeached by the General Assembly in early 2009--the first Illinois governor ever ousted from office in that manner--and because of that the state charter disqualifies him from ever again holding state public office.

***And, lest anyone forget the backdrop for this and the recent political history relating to the Illinois statehouse, LAT piece notes that is the fourth time since 1973 -- and the second time in just four years -- that a onetime Illinois governor has been convicted of wrongdoing.

Tuesday
Aug172010

Politics, and more politics: Jerry Brown, Willie Brown, Obama, Gavin Newsom....

* Jerry Brown campaign releases information about calculations relating to the pensions he is entitled to receive as a result of his public service over the years.  His campaign spokesperson says that, if Brown were to retire next year, he would receive $78,450 from two public pensions.  From the Sacramento Bee....

* Willie Brown responding to report that he is endorsing California Republican Secretary of State candidate Damon Dunn:  "Hell no..are you crazy?'' he said. "I do training of folks with my Institute, and I have absolutely talked to him. But I would never be for Damon Dunn against Debra Bowen, who is one of my chief operatives. One of the things I recommended to Damon Dunn is that he not run against Debra Bowen.''  From San Francisco Chronicle Politics blog....

* Why is the Obama White House so interested in Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick's reelection campaign this year?  Because they see it as a test case for them in 2012.  See Washington Post commentary and analysis....

* And, yes, folks, there really is a campaign under way for California lieutenant governor, as evidenced by Sacramento Bee report that Democratic nominee Gavin Newsom told a crowd at a Sacramento meeting that sustainability efforts spearheaded by his mayoral administration helped create jobs and attract new clean-tech businesses in San Francisco.  Also, that the state's global climate change law not only makes good environmental policy but it also makes sense economically....


Tuesday
Aug172010

Obama event raised $1 million: Who was there?

* Here is Sacramento Bee report on this....

   The star-studded guest list for President Barack Obama'sfundraiser for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee last night included JJ Abrams, Steven Spielberg, Taye Diggs and Judd Apatowccording to the pool report of the event.

   A host of California pols, including former Assembly Speaker and CD 33 candidate Karen Bass got to "hang out," in the president's words, with Obama, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Hollywood big shots at the Los Angeles estate of "The West Wing" producer John Wells.

   Elected officials in attendance included: Democratic Reps. Howard Berman, Brad Sherman, Barbara Lee, Joe Baca, Laura Richardson, Judy Chu and John Garamendi; Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and City Council President Eric Garcetti; Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, a former congresswoman, also attended the fundraiser.