Brown Blasts D.A. in Wright Inquiry as Irresponsible

Times Staff Writers

Assembly Speaker Willie Brown asserted Thursday that Ventura County Dist. Atty. Michael D. Bradbury acted irresponsibly in his investigation that concluded Brown and Assemblywoman Cathie Wright improperly sought to intercede with authorities in traffic cases involving Wright’s frequently ticketed daughter.

“I don’t know any prosecutor anywhere in the world who conducts an investigation, returns no action on his part . . . and then uses it as a tool for the purposes of condemning other people,” Brown, a San Francisco Democrat, told reporters in Sacramento. “That’s the ultimate in irresponsibility, and the Lord ought to deal with Bradbury soon.”

At the same time, the vice chairman of the Joint Legislative Ethics Committee, which has not met since 1985, said he expects panel members to review Bradbury’s 97-page report released Wednesday to determine whether it will probe allegations of possible conflict of interest against Wright and Brown.


Wright (R-Simi Valley) called the report politically motivated and “shameful” in a prepared statement Wednesday but did not address its allegations. She declined to discuss it Thursday.

The harshly critical document, culminating a 10-week inquiry, arrived at various state and legislative offices Thursday. Although Bradbury said the investigation found “no clear-cut criminal violation,” he referred actions committed by Wright, Brown, Ventura County Municipal Judge Bruce Clark and the state Department of Motor Vehicles to oversight agencies, legislative committee chairmen and Gov. George Deukmejian’s office.

The report stated that Brown, a lawyer, apparently “violated the professional rules” of the State Bar of California by seeking leniency for Victoria Wright with a judge on a pending traffic case. It also said that Wright “demonstrated a clear pattern of attempting to obtain special treatment for herself and her daughter with the police, the courts and the Department of Motor Vehicles.”

Brown said he had not seen the report and declined to address its contents. Instead, he blasted Bradbury, much as he did when news reports of Brown’s intercession on behalf of Wright’s daughter first surfaced in March.

Ventura County Municipal Judge Herbert Curtis III told investigators that Brown called him from Washington on March 28, 1988, and identified himself as a close friend of Cathie Wright, moments before Curtis was to hear a misdemeanor charge against Victoria Wright for driving without a license. Curtis recalled that Brown “stated that the judges in Ventura County were too tough on traffic offenders and that he did not believe Victoria deserved to go to jail,” the report says.

In March, Brown said he had not spoken to Curtis but “even if I had, it wouldn’t be improper.” The State Bar is investigating Brown’s contact with the judge. Lawyers are generally prohibited from contacting judges on a pending matter without the opposing attorney present.


Responding to charges that his inquiry was politically motivated, Bradbury said of fellow Republican Wright: “She was clearly engaged in a course of misconduct. If we had not conducted an investigation, if we had not made our findings public, we would be subject to criticism, and I’m sure it would be labeled as politics.”

He suggested that the Joint Legislative Ethics Committee and the state Fair Political Practices Commission consider possible conflicts of interest by Wright and Brown.

State law prohibits a public official from attempting to influence a governmental decision that would have a financial impact on a family member. Bradbury’s report says Wright’s efforts to keep her daughter from being fined for traffic violations or losing her license, which would make it impossible or costly to get to her job, may have violated this prohibition.

Brown may have been guilty of aiding Wright’s efforts to violate this law, Bradbury said.

Both the Fair Political Practices Commission and the ethics committee have authority to hear conflict-of-interest allegations. The ethics committee has dealt with only a handful of cases in two decades and has never recommended a substantive disciplinary action against a lawmaker.

“We have to digest (Bradbury’s) report first,” said Sen. Robert Presley (D-Riverside), vice chairman of the committee. “It’s something we’ll need to resolve, you know, rather quickly.”

The Fair Political Practices Commission received the report Thursday and had not reviewed it yet, spokeswoman Sandra Michioku said.


The Department of Motor Vehicles Thursday denied Bradbury’s allegation that the agency gave “preferential treatment” to Victoria Wright. The DMV suspended her license in June, 1988, after she had accumulated 25 traffic violations since 1981. The revocation was stayed, and she was given a restricted license to drive to and from work after Cathie Wright asked DMV Director A. A. (Del) Pierce to review her daughter’s record.