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Commission Proposes Strict Ethics Code for L.A. Officials

November 21, 1989

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ A commission appointed by Mayor Tom Bradley has proposed a tough ethics code he called a model for other cities. It would ban outside income for officials, limit campaign spending and require detailed financial disclosure.

″Government in this country and in this city is suffering from a crisis in confidence,″ panel member Margaret M. Morrow said Monday. ″There’s a lack of confidence in the integrity of its process, its participants and its results.″

Bradley’s own problems with conflict-of-interest allegations led him to appoint the commission in April after he was elected to an unprecedented fifth term.

Bradley would have been in violation of some provisions had the code been in effect, panel members said.

Bradley, who would have to sign any ethics plan into law, backed the package approved unanimously Monday by the seven-member Commission to Draft an Ethics Code for Los Angeles Government.

″They have proposed an ethics code that will pave the way for other cities across the nation to follow our lead,″ Bradley said in a statement.

He promised to work for its passage by the City Council. Some of the proposals also must be approved by voters citywide because they would change the City Charter.

The number of officials covered by the code will be determined by the City Council and the voters, ″but we’re talking in the dozens,″ said Ben Cates, commission spokesman.

At a minimum, it would cover elected officials - 15 City Council members, the mayor, the city attorney and city controller - candidates, most or all department heads, and possibly top mayoral aides and high-ranking department officials.

Mike Woo, who heads a council committee considering ethics reforms, said most recommendations will be approved in some form, but two - a permanent ethics commission and public campaign financing - have an uncertain future.

Unlike some state and federal ethics measures, the proposed code contains no provision to increase pay to make up for its ban on outside earned income and its strict limits on gifts.

″We’re convinced that the best way to attract good people to government is it assure that the government itself will be highly ethical and that they will be working for an institution that is worthy of public respect,″ said commission Chairman Geoffrey Cowan.

It is the panel’s proposed ban on outside income for elected city officials and top decision-makers that Bradley would have violated, Cowan said. The mayor accepted consulting fees from two banks that do business in the city.

There were suggestions he appointed the ethics panel to save face, but the commission soon declared its independence from the mayor by obtaining private funding.

The commission recommended that elected officials and top appointed officials disclose in detail information about all income and investments, including their primary home and investments outside the city.

The panel also called for giving the city attorney additional enforcement powers and appointing a special prosecutor in some cases.

The city attorney concluded an investigation in September by filing civil charges against Bradley on allegations the mayor improperly reported some securities holdings. The mayor still is under state and federal investigation.

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