Conflict-of-interest issue returns to fore

Alleged fraud involving ADI has some in the city calling again for stricter regulations.

January 07, 2011|By Melanie Hicken,

GLENDALE — For proponents of stronger conflict-of-interest regulations for local elected officials, revelations surrounding several of the city's public housing projects have bolstered their cause.

An affordable housing developer that's the subject of a federal fraud investigation funneled tens of thousands of campaign dollars to Glendale council members through a network of subcontractors, according to a Los Angeles Times and Glendale News-Press investigation published last week. Some of the subcontractors told The Times that they were pressured to donate to certain campaigns or lose work.

Some subcontractors for the developer, Advanced Development & Investment Inc., also performed remodeling work on Councilman John Drayman's condo and gave what he called a payment plan that was "not the norm" — although he has insisted he did not know of the ADI connection.


ADI is under federal investigation for allegedly transferring millions of dollars to personal accounts and overbilling cities across the state for construction costs on its housing projects.

Campaign finance records show that in the two years leading up to the 2009 council election, nearly one of every four dollars received by the top four candidates for the City Council — more than $100,000 in total — came from ADI subcontractors, their employees and those employees' relatives. Collectively, those donations outstripped any other known source in the race.

Council members have countered that they were not influenced in any way by campaign contributions or even knew of donor links to ADI, citing that it is extremely difficult for a candidate to find potential conflicts among hundreds of donations.

"It never occurred to me," said Councilwoman Laura Freidman, who received $16,000 from ADI subcontractors — about two-thirds of which came from those based in Glendale. "You get a donation from a business in the city. Why would you think anything of it?"

Jessica Levinson — director of political reform for the Center for Governmental Studies, a Los Angeles-based nonpartisan think tank — acknowledged both the burden and importance of candidates knowing where their money comes from.

"On the one side, you should be able to run for office without having a professional team of campaign finance lawyers," she said. "On the other hand, there is a very strong public interest in knowing this information, in having this information."

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