State Ruling Sought on Question of Airport Panel Member's Conflict

Times Staff Writer

A legal opinion is being sought from the state Fair Political Practices Commission on the potential conflict of interest presented by Margie Gee, who has refused to step down from the Burbank Airport Authority despite her participation in a lawsuit against the airport.

The Burbank City Council has asked City Atty. Douglas C. Holland to seek an inquiry by the state commission after Gee indicated her unwillingness to resign from the airport panel or withdraw from the lawsuit, which prevents her from voting on airport noise issues that might affect the litigation.

Council members and Gee's fellow members of the Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority have pleaded with Gee to make a choice.

Mayor Mary Lou Howard, who also serves on the authority, said she had grown "extremely tired, weary and frustrated" with the controversy surrounding Gee. The mayor said she is also disappointed that Gee has avoided meeting with the council to discuss the issue in detail.

Howard said she was not interested in forcing Gee off the panel. "We want to use her knowledge of the airport issue and its history, but her hands are tied," she said.

Missed Council Meeting

Gee had told the council that she wanted to talk to them about the possible conflict. But she failed to appear at the council meeting, saying in a written statement that she was celebrating her daughter's birthday.

"Everybody has priorities, I guess, and what's important to one person is not as important to somebody else," Howard said.

Gee told the council Feb. 4 that she would tell them the next week whether she would withdraw from the suit, step down from the commission or stay on the panel in a "possibly handicapped" capacity. On Feb. 8, she told the council in a letter that she wanted council members to be patient while she waited "for extremely relevant information which . . . could cause a drastic change in current affairs."

During a special City Council airport study session Feb. 11, Gee said that she wanted to elaborate on the information, but only if she could do it in an executive session. Holland ruled that Gee's information was not appropriate for an executive session, and advised her to discuss it before the council in a public meeting.

'Handicap' May Not Exist

In her latest written statement, Gee said that her "handicap," or potential conflict of interest, may not exist after all. The real conflict, she claimed, was with the law firm defending the lawsuit in which she is a plaintiff. She said the Los Angeles law firm Kadison, Pfaelzer, Woodard, Quinn & Rossi is also advising the airport panel on her potential conflict of interest, which she said was a conflict in itself.

However, she said she "is pleased and gratified" that the council is asking the state panel to look into the conflict-of-interest allegation against her, as well as the allegation she made against the law firm.

Holland said Gee's allegation concerning the law firm was "interesting" and warranted requesting an opinion from the Fair Political Practices Commission. He said he planned to request that inquiry, as well as the one concerning Gee's potential conflict. He said he hoped to have a response within a month.

The lawsuit in which Gee is a participant was filed two years ago by homeowners seeking damages for lowered property values and nuisance allegedly caused by airplane noise. Each litigant is seeking $200,000 in damages.

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