Union, City Attorney Clash Over Proposed Ban on Fundraising

By Noam N. Levey, Times Staff Writer

Two of the city's most influential players weighed in on opposite sides of the proposed ban on fundraising by Los Angeles city commissioners Thursday, setting the stage for a highly contentious debate before the City Council.

City Atty. Rocky Delgadillo announced strong support for a ban, citing the need for city leaders to eliminate the appearance of a "pay-to-play" atmosphere at City Hall.

But those hoping that momentum behind the proposed ban would carry it through the City Council now will have to contend with mounting opposition from organized labor.

On Thursday, the union that represents thousands of city employees sent council members a strongly worded letter opposing a ban.

"It will not eradicate the perception of a pay-to-play system, and it will have the unintended effect of forcing decent people out of public service," wrote Robert Hunt, general counsel of Service Employees International Union Local 347.

An ascendant organized labor movement has in recent years helped elect a majority of the City Council and can now boast many leaders on city boards and commissions.

Those pushing for new regulations have expressed concerns that fundraising by city commissioners undermines public confidence in government by giving the appearance of conflicts of interest and by opening the door to corruption in city contracting.

In recent weeks, the move to reform this part of local campaign finance law has been picking up momentum with the support of Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley and recent news reports about a grand jury investigation into contracting at Los Angeles International Airport.

On Thursday, Delgadillo unveiled a proposed ordinance that would ban all fundraising by commissioners, and he suggested that anyone who violated the ban should be prohibited from serving on a city commission for five years.

More than 50 boards and commissions, made up mostly of unpaid citizens, oversee scores of city functions, including redevelopment and the zoo. Some of those commissioners are among the biggest fundraisers for Mayor James K. Hahn.

The proposed ban is raising concerns in several sectors of the city, including organized labor, whose leaders serve on numerous commissions and also routinely raise money from their members for political causes.

Julie Butcher, general manager of SEIU Local 347, said she worried that the ban would do little to address problems with city contracting and could unfairly force many union leaders to resign their positions on city commissions.

See the article on Los Angeles Times website

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