Democrats Put Heat on County for Reagan Bill

Times Staff Writer

Local Democrats are turning up the political heat on the Republican-dominated county Board of Supervisors, which last month let President Reagan’s 1984 campaign off the hook for almost $16,000 it owed the county.

Attorney Michael Aguirre has demanded that the five supervisors rescind their action and go after the money, owed for services and lost employee time in connection with a campaign rally held at the County Administration Center two weeks before the 1984 election.

Aguirre, representing county Democratic Party Chairman Tom LaVaut, central committee member Kathleen Harmon and Chicano Federation Chairman Jess Haro, said he will sue the county if the supervisors reject his demand.


“If you don’t pay your taxes, the county doesn’t write it off,” Aguirre said Thursday. “But because the people involved in this case were comrades and of the same political party, they (the supervisors) are giving them special treatment.”

In a letter to the board members, Aguirre said the county’s failure to collect the bill amounted to an illegal campaign contribution to the Reagan-Bush committee.

The board voted 3-1 on Oct. 2 (Susan Golding was absent) to abandon efforts aimed at retrieving the $15,969.09 still owed the county by the campaign. Leon Williams, the board’s lone Democrat, cast the only dissenting vote.

The total bill for $17,191.92 included the cost of shuttle buses for county employees (because one parking lot was closed), portable toilets and security. Most of the charge--$12,400--was the value of the time lost by 620 employees forced by the Secret Service to evacuate the County Administration Center for three hours the day of the Reagan rally.

Although the campaign paid part of the bill, it refused to reimburse the county for the lost employee time because it was the Secret Service, not the campaign, that ordered the building evacuated.

County Counsel Lloyd Harmon told the board that it would probably cost the county more to collect the money than to let the matter drop. Harmon said Thursday that he will discuss Aguirre’s letter Dec. 4 at a closed session with the board.


Supervisor Brian Bilbray said he believes that Aguirre and the Democrats are concerned about more than the unpaid bill.

“I’ll read his letter and I’ll evaluate it,” Bilbray said. “But let’s face it. This issue is being pushed for political reasons. I’d be interested to see if the same issue would be raised by the same people if it had been President Carter’s rally.”

Bilbray said the county benefited from the exposure it got from the Reagan rally by more than the amount of money lost on the deal.

“It would be hard to buy a public relations piece like we got out of that rally,” Bilbray said.