L.A. Probing Donations by Developers to Picus and Woo

Times Staff Writer

Investigators are looking into multiple developer contributions accepted by recently reelected City Council members Joy Picus and Michael Woo as possible violations of Los Angeles’ strict $500-per-person limit on campaign contributions, city officials said Tuesday.

Since voters passed the campaign limit in 1985, there have been repeated accusations that candidates and contributors are seeking to circumvent the law through various strategies.

City Clerk Elias Martinez confirmed Tuesday that his office is investigating both Picus’ and Woo’s campaign statements at the request of the city attorney’s office.


Although Martinez would give no details, Woo campaign manager Steve Afriat said the investigation centers on 14 contributions of $500 each accepted by the councilman from seven executives of the Lycon Group, a development firm, and from their children.

Returned Some Donations

“We returned half of the contributions, those from the children, because they seemed to go against the law, because the money actually appeared to come from the parents,” Afriat said.

“But Mike didn’t catch it right away, so the returns didn’t show up on our last campaign statement in late March. So I guess someone complained.”

He expressed confidence that investigators would drop the case once they examine the cancelled checks by which the seven contributions from children of executives were returned.

The Picus inquiry stems from a letter sent to City Atty. James K. Hahn by Paul McKellips, one of five candidates whom the councilwoman edged out in the election April 11.

McKellips said Tuesday that he urged investigators to look into $500 contributions from Sherman Oaks developer Edward L. Saunders, his wife and son Brad, who lives at the family home in Woodland Hills.


Raises Question

“When a child lives at home, it raises the question of whether he put up the money or whether his parents did it using him as a figurehead,” McKellips said.

“Brad is swimming in money,” Anita Harkavy, an executive assistant at Saunders Development Corp., said Tuesday. “He is very wealthy on his own without mom and dad.”

She termed Brad Saunders, 22, an “enthusiastic supporter of Picus in his own right.”

Also questioned by McKellips were three $500 contributions from Selleck Properties Inc., a Woodland Hills development firm.

Two of the checks were sent in the name of other firms with the same address--Sherman Way-White Oak Associates and Tampa-Saticoy Associates.

Separate Businesses?

Noting that the law also limits business entities to $500 each per candidate, McKellips asked, “Are these really separate businesses? I think that should be checked into.”

Bob Selleck, managing general partner and brother of actor Tom Selleck, said Tuesday that he is convinced that the three firms, each of which is a different partnership, “are separate under the law’s definition.