Investigation of alleged campaign violations sparks heated debate

The loudest debate at the regularly scheduled City Council meeting was spurred by an item not on the agenda. When City Attorney Christi Hogin announced that she had nothing new to report on the investigation of alleged campaign violations, members and representatives of the Road Worriers, the Political Action Committee named in the investigation, lined up to be heard.

Art London told the council, “What we’ve heard tonight from our city attorney, who as I understood, promised a progress report for tonight, was the most hostile, arrogant . . .”

“Let’s not name call. Let’s stick to the point,” urged Mayor House.

“You can report on no progress and why no progress,” he continued. London said there could be a good reason but it should be explained. “That’s the big mystery. What are we talking about? We still have no answers.”

“In just a few days, it’s going to be four months since the election,” said Howard Steinman. “That’s a long time. The people being complained against are not allowed to see what the charges are. It seems like we’re in some kind of a third world country where the rules are not clear.”

Attorney Brad Hurt said he was asked to “demystify the process of investigating and prosecuting campaign irregularities.” He said campaign violation investigations are the easiest because everything is documented, easily obtainable and reviewable. “This task should take hours and not days and weeks and months,” said Hurt. “This is not who shot JFK or even who shot JR.”

“You are discouraging people like me to get involved,” said Tami Clark. “Because if I get involved in the process, I can be strung out for 100 days, my friends could spend money on attorneys they don’t need to spend to come here and protect themselves against something that could have been handled in less than a week.”

“This is wrong,” said Gene Wood. “Maybe we can turn it into a profit position,” Wood said. “We’ll do a show on Falcon called — called Geraldo Grisanti.”

“Gene, I don’t think name calling or labeling is good at the council meetings,” said Mayor Joan House.

“Well, I’m sorry that you think that way, Ms. Mayor,” said Wood. “Are you telling me what to think and what to say in a public forum?”

“I’m saying that we’re not using name calling and we shouldn’t hang people up to dry and make fun of people,” said House.

“Where were you during the years when people like myself and many of the people seated here were called fascists?” asked Wood.

“Gene, your time is running,” said House.

“With all due respect, Mayor House, anytime that I want to stand up and say what is in my mind or heart, I’ll say it and there isn’t anybody who’s going to stop me,” said Wood.

House replied “I’m not trying to stop you to say what’s in your mind or heart, but when you start name calling people in the community. . .”

Wood interrupted “Are you going to be the arbitrator, the judge of what’s right and wrong?”

“No,” answered House. “I think the decorum is not there.”

“The decorum is not there?” said Wood. “Oh, you’d have been a big hit in 1937, lady.”

Attorney Frank Angel said, “This is not a cry for stopping anything. This is a cry for getting a result. . . . Justice delayed is justice denied.”

Discussion then moved to the council table. Councilwoman Carolyn van Horn asked Hogin if Hurt’s description of an investigation was correct.

“It’s more complicated than Mr. Hurt’s described,” said Hogin.

“What is your estimate of when this will be concluded?” Van Horn asked.

“I don’t know. I don’t have an estimate,” replied Hogin.

“That’s not acceptable,” said Van Horn. “It’s not acceptable. You have a list of all the different law firms that help you out? They can take over and do all of the other city business and you can concentrate on this.”

“I’m sure you’re not being literal,” said Hogin.

“You want this to drag, Christi? Is that what the motivation is?” asked Van Horn.

“No,” replied Hogin.

“What was that?” asked Van Horn.

“No, I do not want to drag this out,” said Hogin.

“When do you expect this to be concluded?” asked Van Horn.

“I can’t give you an estimate, councilmember. I just can’t,” said Hogin.

“I can’t imagine having any kind of litigation where you wouldn’t have some kind of an estimate of some sort of a conclusion or some benchmark,” said Van Horn. “You’re not giving anything and that’s not acceptable.”

Councilman Harry Barovsky said he was getting uncomfortable with the tenor of the conversations in the matter. “I don’t know that we have the legal authority to tell the city attorney how to handle this case,” Barovsky said. “I think it’s time we stop beating up the city attorney. I don’t know what that accomplishes.”

“I think you’re playing games with us, Christi, and I resent it,” said Councilman Walt Keller. Keller made a motion that could have prevented Hogin from taking her scheduled vacation in August. “I would like to direct you to settle this, or don’t go on vacation until you do,” Keller said.

Van Horn offered a second.

Barovsky said he would not support the motion. “A vacation delayed is a vacation denied,” he said.

“At this late date, I am not going to ask her to change her plans,” said House.

Keller and Van Horn voted in favor of the motion. House and Barovsky opposed it. Hasse abstained. The motion failed due to the tie vote.

A motion to require Hogin to report to the council five days before she leaves on her vacation failed with the same vote.

Hogin would not comment on the matter.

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The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

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