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IRVINE : Complaint Filed on Agran Hotel Rooms

A City Council candidate has filed a complaint with the state, alleging that Mayor Larry Agran might have violated campaign finance laws by setting up his reelection headquarters in two rooms at La Quinta Motor Inn.

Barry J. Hammond said Tuesday that he has requested an investigation by the Fair Political Practices Commission, a watchdog agency that monitors the ethical conduct of government officials and candidates for elected office across the state.

Hammond alleges that the low daily rates the Agran campaign is paying for the two rooms amount to a campaign donation in violation of an Irvine city ordinance that limits political contributions to $170 per donor per year.

He further contends that if the rent is a campaign contribution, Agran did not publicly disclose it on his campaign finance reports filed in March. The statements, which list political contributors, loans, and campaign expenditures, are required by state law.

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In a deal arranged by an Irvine developer and Agran supporter, Agran has rented, for $6.50 a day each, two hotel rooms at La Quinta Motor Inn, where rates for the average guest begin at $58 a day for long-term occupancy of a single room. Michael Ray of J. Ray Construction Co., who has a financial interest in La Quinta, said he set up the agreement after he was contacted by a campaign volunteer for the mayor.

Agran and Ray deny any impropriety, saying the rate represents the fair market value for space in the area and, as such, the arrangement is not a campaign contribution. Ray also said he was interested in attracting campaign volunteers, who, he believes, will provide much-needed customers for shops and restaurants in the Old Town Irvine complex off Sand Canyon Avenue and the Santa Ana Freeway.

According to the state Political Reform Act, granting discounts to candidates that generally are not available to the public are considered political contributions and must be disclosed on a candidate’s campaign-disclosure forms.

In the June 5 election, Hammond, a supporter of councilwoman and mayoral candidate Sally Anne Sheridan, is running against five other candidates for City Council: Art Bloomer, Albert E. Nasser, Councilman Cameron Cosgrove, Robert J. West and Mary Ann Gaido. The top two vote-getters will be elected to the council.

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