City Atty. Has No Record of Bradley Asking Advice

Times Staff Writer

The Los Angeles city attorney’s office, searching its files for documents related to the ongoing investigation of Mayor Tom Bradley’s personal finances, said Friday that it has found no indication that the mayor ever consulted with its lawyers on the propriety of his connections to local lending institutions.

The determination, disclosed by office spokesman Mike Qualls after a formal request by The Times, followed an assertion several months ago by Bradley that he had voluntarily sought the advice of the city attorney before joining the board of directors of Valley Federal Savings & Loan Assn. in 1978.

Defending himself in an interview with The Times, Bradley said he had been concerned about a conflict of interest in joining the board but was told the move was acceptable.


“The first question I asked was about a conflict,” Bradley said in the interview. “No, not only did I ask the members of the company who came to me and invited me to serve (Valley Federal); I also checked with the city attorney to be certain that there were no legal problems that he could anticipate. He could see none. I could see none.”

But Burt Pines, then the city attorney and now in private practice in Los Angeles, recalled no such conversation. “I didn’t have the discussion,” Pines said.

Late Friday, however, Bradley spokesman Bill Chandler, relaying new information from the mayor, said that Bradley had asked the advice of Deputy City Atty. James Doherty, who regularly handled conflict-of-interest inquiries in 1978. The mayor said that the advice was rendered orally and that Doherty implied there was no need for a written report.

Doherty has since died, but his records were among those checked by staff attorneys in a thorough search of formal opinions and the files of memos and letters by individual attorneys, city attorney spokesman Qualls said. Neither correspondence on the Valley Federal matter, now under investigation, nor records of concern by Bradley on any potential conflict were found.

Qualls did not rule out the possibility that the verbal approval was tendered, but said that none of the staff attorneys questioned in the probe could recall such a request.

Bradley’s spokesman added that the mayor specifically recalled asking whether the City Charter allowed him to join the institution’s board. There is no indication that he discussed whether he could act on their behalf after joining the board. Allegations that the mayor interceded on behalf of the institution are at the heart of the controversy surrounding him.


The breadth of the probes concerning Bradley, meanwhile, continued to spread. The Fair Political Practices Commission, the state’s political watchdog unit, has now opened its own review of possible conflict of interest violations by Bradley, who only last month narrowly averted a runoff election en route to a record fifth mayoral term.

The FPPC review--which was described by spokeswoman Jeanette Turvill as preliminary--essentially mimics a probe already under way in the city attorney’s office, which is delving into Bradley’s activities as a paid adviser or board member of two financial institutions that did business with the city.

“We have under review the most recent allegations regarding his position (with) financial institutions,” said Turvill, who added that no decision has been reached about whether a full investigation is required.

If Bradley is found to have violated state laws--which prohibit attempting to influence decisions on matters in which he has a financial interest, fines of up to $2,000 per violation could be levied, Turvill said. The penalties would be separate from any civil fines sought by the city attorney’s office.

The FPPC probe follows closely upon another the state agency launched against the mayor. Already under investigation is Bradley’s participation in 1986 votes when he sat as chairman of the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission--that gave commission consulting business to some of his large political contributors.

After inquiries by The Times late last year, the mayor quickly returned $17,000 in contributions from those involved in the votes. Records showed that the mayor’s office had been warned about the possible conflicts of interest in the matter, but Deputy Mayor Mike Gage said there had been a breakdown in communication within the mayor’s staff.


The swirl of controversy surrounding the 71-year-old Bradley strikes at the heart of his political image of personal integrity, an image that he has cultivated from his days as a Los Angeles police officer, through terms on the City Council and during his mayoral tenure.

The probe initially centered on Bradley’s paid positions with two local institutions, Valley Federal and Far East National Bank. The bank gave Bradley $18,000 last year for serving as the only paid member of its advisory board. Bradley said the money was tendered for his advice on international trade, while the bank’s president, Henry Hwang, said the money was for “services rendered in the future.” Bradley returned the money in March.

Bradley joined the board of Valley Federal in 1978 at an annual salary of up to $24,000. He resigned as a director emeritus one day after the mayoral primary last month.

The mayor said initially that he did not know that the institutions were doing business with the city, but his account has been contradicted in recent weeks in documents made available to The Times. Indeed, the documents suggested that telephone calls made by Bradley spurred the city treasurer’s office to work more closely with the bank.

After vowing to cooperate with investigations and saying that he has done nothing wrong, Bradley has refused to comment on the allegations.

And meanwhile, the investigations have broadened. The city attorney’s office has forwarded to the Securities and Exchange Commission Bradley’s personal financial statements, which show holdings in stocks and bonds involved in a federal investigation of the investment firm Drexel Burnham Lambert. Despite forwarding the materials, City Atty. James K. Hahn has not publicly suggested that Bradley was personally involved in wrongdoing.


In a coincidental development, the city’s biennial Official Salaries Authority will consider a study recommending that the mayor receive a hefty salary increase but be required by an amendment to the City Charter to give up all outside consulting work and directorships.

Michael Nash, a prominent compensation consultant who authored the study, said the position of mayor--as well as those of City Council members, city attorney and city controller--are demanding enough that the officials should “be expected to devote their full energies to their official capacity.”

Nash’s suggestion that the mayor’s salary be raised from $97,654 per year to $129,012, which would place him in line with the mayor of New York, was based on comparisons of salaries of city officials elsewhere and of pay levels of executives in private sector positions.

The consultant said he arrived at the conclusions before the recent scrutiny over Bradley’s board memberships, and he termed the timing “probably an unfortunate coincidence.” Bradley had no comment on the report.

Officials at the city attorney’s office who searched unsuccessfully for a record of a Bradley conflict of interest inquiry said city officials routinely ask the office for advice on such concerns. The inquiries are voluntary and most are dealt with in memo form rather than in formal city attorney position papers, officials said.

Contributing to this article were Times staff writers Glenn F. Bunting, Rich Connell, Frederick M. Muir and Jill Stewart.