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Focus on Renovation of Mayor’s Home : Police Chief Testifies at Hedgecock Trial

Times Staff Writer

San Diego Police Chief William Kolender testified Monday that a developer friend of Mayor Roger Hedgecock told him in early 1984 that former J. David & Co. principal Nancy Hoover was willing to remodel the mayor’s house for free.

However, the mayor’s friend and former business partner, developer Michael Turk, told the jury in Hedgecock’s felony retrial that he did not recall making such a comment during a January, 1984, dinner with Kolender, adding that even if he did make the remark, “I’d have been running off at my mouth . . . and it’s certainly not true.”

In addition, defense attorney Oscar Goodman implied that Kolender’s recollection of the conversation may be imprecise because of “one or two” alcoholic drinks that the police chief admitted having at the dinner.

The testimony by Turk and Kolender came as Deputy Dist. Atty. Charles Wickersham neared the end of the prosecution’s case in Hedgecock’s felony conspiracy and perjury retrial. Wickersham, who to date has called 60 prosecution witnesses to testify, said that he expects to conclude his case today, after which Goodman will begin the case for the defense.

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The conversation between Kolender and Turk concerning the renovation of Hedgecock’s South Mission Hills house was not introduced as evidence in the mayor’s first trial, which ended last February in a mistrial with the jury deadlocked 11-1 in favor of conviction. Prosecutors learned of the alleged incident after the conclusion of the first case.

Turk’s purported remark about Hedgecock’s house renovation occurred at a Jan. 28, 1984, dinner at Turk’s home, attended by Kolender and police psychologist Michael Mantell, as well as their wives.

During the dinner, the subject of Hedgecock’s house, then in the final stages of an extensive renovation project that began the previous summer, came up, Kolender testified. Asked by Wickersham about Turk’s comments on that topic, Kolender explained that the developer said “something to the effect of, I offered to do the house at cost and Roger said, ‘I don’t need you--Nancy’s going to do it for nothing.’ ”

However, Turk’s recollection of the 20-month-old conversation was considerably less specific than Kolender’s description. Pressed by Wickersham on whether he had, in fact, made such a remark, Turk replied, “I don’t think so. Conceivably, I could have said something like that. But I don’t believe I did.”

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“Do you recall making a statement that (Hedgecock) responded to your offer (to remodel the house at cost) by saying, ‘Why should I have you do it when I can have Nancy Hoover do it for nothing?’ ” Wickersham repeated.

“I don’t think I said that,” Turk said. “It’s conceivable I would. But if I did I certainly wasn’t sure. I’m telling you I’m not sure.”

Turk cast further doubt on whether he made the alleged remark by claiming that at the time of the dinner, he “had no knowledge” that Hoover was involved in the financing of the renovation project. The bulk of the $190,000-plus renovation project was funded, Hedgecock says, by a $130,000 oral-agreement loan from Hoover, since repaid with interest.

Prosecutors, however, have charged that the renovation originally was intended to be a gift to Hedgecock from Hoover and J. David founder J. David (Jerry) Dominelli, further alleging that the transaction probably never would have come to to light were it not for the collapse of the La Jolla investment firm in early 1984.

During cross-examination by Goodman, Turk denied ever offering Hedgecock a bargain price for the renovation of his house, saying, “I’ve never done anything at cost.” Turk noted that he even charged his parents a 10% profit for work that he did for them last year.

“It’s your testimony that Roger Hedgecock never told you he had Nancy Hoover do it for nothing?” Goodman asked.

“That’s correct,” Turk replied.

Asked again about the remark that Kolender attributed to him, Turk added, “If I did say it . . . I’d have been running off at the mouth and not thinking. If I did say it, it’s certainly not true.”

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Goodman, meanwhile, used a two-pronged strategy in his attempt to whittle away at Kolender’s testimony--noting that the police chief had been drinking at the time of his conversation with Turk and alluding to Kolender’s own possible mayoral aspirations.

Kolender conceded that he had had “one or two” drinks at Turk’s house. In addition, the police chief acknowledged that in the early 1980s, Hoover told him that she would prefer to back Kolender for mayor but that Dominelli preferred Hedgecock.

Following Monday’s court session, abbreviated by the illness of juror Dolores Pickering, Wickersham argued that Kolender’s admission of having “two drinks (during) dinner” did not have “any effect at all” on his testimony. The prosecutor also described Turk as a “much less than cooperative” witness.

Turk also testified about another of the major issues in the case--a $16,000 promissory note that Hedgecock received following the dissolution of an unsuccessful condominium partnership between the two. When the solar-powered condos built by Turk and Hedgecock proved difficult to sell because of soaring interest rates in the early 1980s, their partnership was dissolved and the assets divided under a March, 1981, agreement, later amended on June 22, 1982.

Included among the assets that Hedgecock received was a $16,000 promissory note in the form of a trust deed on an El Cajon house. Hedgecock later sold the note to Hoover in late 1982 but asked her attorney not to record the sale until June, 1983--a delay that prosecutors contend was designed to conceal his financial ties to Hoover until after the special May, 1983, mayoral election.

The mayor, however, argues that the delay was motivated by tax considerations brought to his attention by Turk--a scenario lent credence by Turk’s testimony Monday.

At the time of the June, 1982, modification to the partnership dissolution agreement, Turk explained, he told Hedgecock that he would receive a tax break if he did not sell the trust deeds, condos and other assets for at least one year.

“I told him, you’d better hold them for one year or you’re going to have to pay ordinary income,” Turk said. Evidence at the first trial showed that the trust deed’s sale was recorded on June 23, 1983--one year and a day after the amendment to the dissolution pact.

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Wickersham, however, suggested that Turk’s advice about not selling the assets for one year applied only to the condominiums, not the trust deeds. Turk, though, testified that he “was talking about the whole shooting match--the condos and the notes. I was referring to the whole thing.”


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