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Key Vote Poised to End Culver City Fireworks Sales

Times Staff Writer

Minutes after two council members were sworn in Tuesday night, the City Council scheduled a hearing on a resolution banning this year’s sale of fireworks in Culver City. After the meeting, one of the new officials vowed to cast the deciding vote against the sales.

Jozelle Smith, the 46-year-old newspaper columnist who unseated incumbent A. Ronald Perkins, said she would vote to ban fireworks.

With Councilmen Paul A. Jacobs and Paul A. Netzel already on record against the sales, Smith is expected to tip the majority to 3-2 against fireworks.

Favor Sales

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Councilmen Richard M. Alexander and Richard Brundo are on record in favor of fireworks sales, which have been conducted for more than 30 years in Culver City.

The hearing was scheduled for 7:30 p.m. April 28 in the council chambers at the request of Councilman Jacobs, who also asked the staff to report on the city’s annual fireworks show run by nonprofit groups.

The hearing is expected to attract representatives of the 10 nonprofit groups that have permits to sell fireworks from June 29 through July 4. The groups were chosen by the city in a random drawing April 2.

On election night, Smith said she was not sure whether she would vote against this year’s sales because she and her husband are associated with the Culver-Palms Family YMCA, which has a sales permit.

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Sought Opinion

She said in an interview Tuesday, however, that she would vote against the sales after conferring with the city attorney’s office. She said she had asked for an opinion on a possible conflict of interest because of her family’s association with the YMCA.

Joseph W. Pannone, acting city attorney, said that Smith could vote on a ban because neither she nor her husband had a financial stake in fireworks sales or in the nonprofit YMCA, from which they receive no compensation.

“If it comes to a vote, I would have to stand by my commitment (to ban fireworks sales),” Smith said. But she said she made the decision with regret because some nonprofit groups, including her husband’s, have based their budgets for the year on revenue from fireworks.

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“To have that taken away at such late notice. . . . It’s unfortunate,” she said.

Debate over conflict of interest played an important part in this year’s council campaign. Perkins was criticized for his association with a development company co-owned by convicted political corruption figure W. Patrick Moriarty. Perkins, a three-term incumbent, denied any wrongdoing.

Last week’s election was watched closely by officials of Pyrotronics Corp., the Anaheim-based fireworks company that supplies Culver City with virtually all the fireworks sold by veterans groups and other nonprofit groups. The only city on the Westside to permit fireworks sales, Culver City is the most lucrative market for fireworks in the state, with annual sales averaging more than $500,000, industry officials said.

Fred Brookins, who coordinates fireworks sales in Culver City for Pyrotronics, said Pyrotronics probably would have to dissolve its Culver City-based subsidiary, Bishop Fireworks, if the city bans the sales.

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“It will be a substantial loss (to the company),” Brookins said.

Moriarty, sentenced in January to seven years for mail fraud, founded Pyrotronics and still owns stock in the company. Moriarty also founded and holds stock in Pyrospectacular Co., which has supplied fireworks for the city’s annual fireworks show since the 1970s.

Smith, an insurance agent and features editor for the Culver City News, received the most votes last week among seven candidates for two seats on the council.

Smith and Alexander, who finished second in the balloting, were sworn in by City Clerk Pauline C. Dolce. Dolce was elected to a third term, Alexander to a fourth.

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