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Burbank Hospitality Assn. cleared by Los Angeles D.A.’s office, fined by FPPC

The Burbank Hospitality Assn. has been cleared of misusing funds by the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office but was fined by the California Fair Political Practices Commission, or FPPC, for not appropriately filing its contribution paperwork on time.

The public integrity division of the district attorney’s office determined that the association did not misuse public resources when the marketing organization made a $50,000 contribution to the Committee for Yes on Measure B.

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Measure B was an initiative on the November 2016 ballot that asked Burbank voters whether the Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority should be allowed to build a 14-gate replacement terminal at Hollywood Burbank Airport.

In a letter from Bjorn Dodd, deputy district attorney for Los Angeles County, to Burbank City Atty. Amy Albano dated June 20, the county agency concluded that the Burbank Hospitality Assn., known as Visit Burbank, did not violate the government code regarding unlawful expenditures because “the [monies] contributed did not constitute ‘public resources’ as defined by the statute,” Dodd wrote.

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Visit Burbank generates funds by a 1% assessment on hotel stays in the city and uses those funds to promote Burbank to tourists and businesses.

He continued by saying the group did not violate criminal statutes because the funds donated were not classified as public money, nor did Visit Burbank “act with fraudulent intent.”

The decision comes more than a year after the public integrity division determined that the Burbank Hospitality Assn. violated the Brown Act for not properly placing the donation on its agenda.

In September 2016, a member of the Committee for Yes on Measure B asked Visit Burbank for $50,000 to “educate Burbank residents on the importance of voting yes on Measure B,” according to a city memo dated Sept. 20, 2016.

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The ballot measure was approved by voters, with about 69.7% supporting the new terminal.

David Spell, one of the Burbank residents who filed complaints with the D.A.’s office and FPPC alleging the group misused public funds, wrote in an email Friday that he does not think the public integrity division “examined this as closely as was warranted.”

Although the D.A.’s office formally closed its investigation on the matter, officials with the FPPC are not done with theirs.

During a meeting on June 21, a day after county officials closed their investigation, the FPPC approved issuing a $5,000 fine to the Burbank Hospitality Assn. for not properly filing a major-donor campaign statement and a 24-hour contribution report in a timely manner.

According to a stipulation from the state agency, Visit Burbank qualified itself as a major-donor committee by making a contribution larger than $10,000 in a calendar year.

Because the donation was made in Sept. 23, 2016, the group had until Jan. 31, 2017 to file a major-donor campaign statement with the FPPC.

Additionally, because the contribution was made within 90 days of the November 2016 election, the Burbank Hospitality Assn. had until Sept. 26, 2016 to file a 24-hour contribution report.

The group did not file the reports by the deadlines but instead submitted the missing documents in June 2017.

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Though the FPPC fined the Burbank Hospitality Assn. for not filing its paperwork on time, Spell wrote that the state agency is still investigating whether the campaign materials created by the Committee for Yes on Measure B were appropriately created and labeled.

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