Bradley Didn't Violate Ethics, Inquiry Finds : Finances: Fair Political Practices Commission reports no evidence that conflict-of-interest laws were violated.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Closing a 17-month investigation of Mayor Tom Bradley's financial dealings, the California Fair Political Practices Commission has decided not to prosecute the mayor for possible violations of state conflict-of-interest laws.

The commission studied 20 governmental decisions made by Bradley and found that "most of them never had the potential for being true violations of the Political Reform Act," according to a report released Thursday.

The report echoes the findings of City Atty. James K. Hahn, who said in September, 1989, that there was insufficient evidence to bring criminal charges against the mayor. Hahn said Bradley showed "indifference" to ethical concerns and filed a civil lawsuit against Bradley for failing to disclose major personal stock holdings. He also asked the FPPC and other agencies to look into the matter.

A probe of Bradley stock transactions begun by the U.S. attorney's office is still under way.

In its report, the commission said it agrees with Hahn's decision and quoted his assessment that some of the "allegations . . . remain troubling." The report did not elaborate.

Bill Chandler, a spokesman for Bradley, called the report "simply a summary of what has been clearly understood for 17 months: the mayor did not engage in conflicts of interest.

"The only time the mayor even thinks about these ancient issues," Chandler added, "is when the press asks about them."

The report, written by commission attorney Elliot Block, contains no new information about the stock, real estate and banking transactions that embroiled the Bradley Administration in controversy two years ago.

In each of the instances examined, the report said, it was readily apparent that the mayor either had no involvement with a decision or had no economic interest in it.

FPPC spokesman Jay Greenwood said Thursday that agency policy barred Block from talking to reporters. Greenwood said the staff "relied primarily on the Los Angeles city attorney's investigation," and did not interview Bradley or others connected with the matter. The inquiry took 17 months because of the "voluminous" records that were reviewed and because of the press of other FPPC cases, he said.

The city attorney's investigation began in April, 1989, with news reports of Bradley's employment by Far East National Bank, which paid him $18,000 as a consultant, and by Valley Federal Savings, which paid him $25,000 a year for serving on its board of directors.

The day after his narrow election victory that spring, Bradley announced that he was resigning from the Valley Federal board and placing his holdings in a blind trust. He had previously returned the $18,000 to Far East National Bank.

Hahn began his investigation after published reports that then-city Treasurer Leonard Rittenberg deposited $2 million in Far East in 1989 after Bradley called him to inquire about the bank. Hahn and the commission said Rittenberg may have made the deposits as an overreaction to Bradley's call. Bradley and Rittenberg, who later resigned under fire, have said the mayor did not attempt to influence the placement of the city deposits.

The probe expanded to other aspects of the mayor's finances, particularly focusing on a city-funded task force to promote trade with Africa. The task force, headed by Bradley business partner and friend Juanita St. John, has failed to account for nearly $180,000 in city funds and St. John has been charged in a criminal case that is pending.

After reviewing the evidence related to Bradley, Hahn found that there was "no reasonable probability of a conviction."

In December, 1989, Bradley agreed to pay a $20,000 fine to settle the lawsuit filed by Hahn over Bradley's failure to disclose personal investments and stock worth $160,000, as required by law.

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