Moorpark Official Says He Heard Tape About Bribe

Times Staff Writer

A Moorpark official said at a City Council meeting Wednesday that he has heard a tape recording that former Councilman Danny Woolard has said implicates the town's mayor in a bribery scheme.

Woolard, who last month resigned from the council after pleading guilty to stealing $5,500 from the Moorpark Post Office, where he worked, said Saturday that he secretly recorded a conversation with Mayor Thomas C. (Bud) Ferguson last month. In their talk, Woolard alleged, Ferguson acknowledged knowing about a $2,000 payment Woolard said he accepted in exchange for his vote on a controversial city issue last year.

In the first confirmation of the existence of the tape, Councilman John Galloway told the audience in council chambers: "What Danny Woolard said is on that tape is consistent with what I heard on the tape."

Galloway declined to comment further, even to say when he heard the tape. But Woolard, who attended the council meeting, said he played it for the councilman a day or two after the conversation with Ferguson.

Woolard has alleged that Ferguson arranged the $2,000 bribe last year in exchange for his tie-breaking vote to approve a 254-acre housing development and a study for a road providing access to property owned by a former employer of Ferguson.

In alleging the existence of the tape Saturday, Woolard said: "As soon as people hear the tape, they will demand Bud's resignation."

Galloway and Councilman Clint Harper said Saturday that Ferguson should resign if the tape reveals any criminal wrongdoing.

Although he confirmed Wednesday that he had heard the tape, Galloway apparently backed down from pressuring Ferguson to resign, saying the entire matter should be handled by prosecutors.

Ferguson, who has denied any wrongdoing, stood firm once again at the meeting Wednesday.

"I have no intention of stepping down from the City Council," the mayor said. "If I'm asked to do so by the people, I will ignore it. . . . I'm not going to step down short of a conviction."

Ferguson was elected to City Council in 1984 and named mayor last May after the resignation of James D. Weak.

Woolard has been granted immunity from further prosecution in exchange for his cooperation in a political corruption investigation by the Ventura County district attorney's office.

At the meeting Wednesday, Harper said he has sent a letter to the state attorney general's office, asking it to take over the investigation. Harper said the local prosecutor's office lacks the resources to investigate the allegations.

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