The Los Angeles County district attorney’s office determined last week that the Burbank Hospitality Assn. violated the Brown Act back in September when the organization decided to donate money to the Committee for Yes on Measure B without properly placing the request on its agenda.
According to a letter written by Bjorn Dodd, deputy district attorney, dated May 30, which was sent to Burbank resident David Spell, the district attorney’s office agreed with one of Spell’s complaints, which alleged the Burbank Hospitality Assn., commonly known as Visit Burbank, had inappropriately discussed and given $50,000 to the Committee of Yes on Measure B without placing the issue on the agenda.
“The BHA incorrectly justified handling the matter under the agenda item ‘Ongoing Operational Issues,’” Dodd wrote. “This constituted a violation of the [Brown] Act.”
Spell was one of a group of residents that on Jan. 17 filed a complaint with the district attorney’s office against Visit Burbank, alleging that the organization violated the Brown Act and misused public funds to help the pro-Measure B committee pay for campaign mailers.
The passage of Measure B paved the way for the Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority to move forward with plans to construct a replacement 14-gate terminal at the Hollywood Burbank Airport.
In December, Spell also filed a complaint with the California Fair Political Practices Commission alleging the same issues against Visit Burbank. However, Spell wrote in an email that the state agency is still conducting its investigation.
Spell stated in the email that, although the news from the district’s attorney’s office was a “small victory” for him and other residents, there were still a few issues that have not been resolved. While the local agency determined that there was a Brown Act violation, Dodd wrote in the letter that district attorney officials are still investigating whether public funds were misused.
“It appears that they are still looking into this, and we are hopeful someone will be held to account for this,” Spell stated in the email.
Additionally, Spell wrote that there could have been a chance to overturn the $50,000 donation had the complaint been submitted within 30 days of the alleged violation.
Residents learned about the Burbank Hospitality Assn.’s actions after the Nov. 8 election, when Burbank voters approved Measure B.
Spell and other residents found a city memo dated Sept. 20 which stated that former state Assembly candidate Sunder Ramani, a member of the Committee for Yes on Measure B, had approached the Burbank Hospitality Assn. during a meeting on Sept. 14 and asked the organization for $50,000 to help “educate Burbank residents on the importance of voting yes on Measure B.”
Visit Burbank is in charge of promoting the city to tourists and other businesses by using funds generated by a 1% assessment on hotel stays in the city.
Since the allegations arose, the City Council voted in late December to take steps members think will prevent the association from taking part in activities in such a way again. Some of the actions council members approved were providing Brown Act training, prohibiting the group from making any further donations to political campaigns, requiring that Visit Burbank use its own address rather than the city’s, and cutting the organization’s budget by $50,000.