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Politics Aren’t New to Burke : Marathon: His companies have been investigated by U.S. Senate and the California legislature.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

William A. Burke, a self-described entrepreneur, has been involved in a variety of businesses ranging from wine companies to mortuaries. And he’s also no stranger to politics.

In the late 1960s, he served as a field deputy for then-L.A. City Councilman Billy Mills. And on June 14, 1972, politics became part of the family when he married Yvonne Brathwaite, who was soon to be a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. It was the second marriage for each.

However, six weeks after their marriage, Brathwaite was having to answer questions about the dealings of her husband and his business partner, state Sen. Mervyn M. Dymally. Dymally had been the best man at Burke’s wedding.

Dymally, who later became lieutenant governor, introduced special legislation in 1970 that made it possible for a wine company--Batik Wine and Spirits--in which he and Burke owned stock, to enter the state’s growing health-care field.

One month later, Batik acquired the Hope Emergency Medical Clinic, in which Burke was half owner. According to the Los Angeles County tax assessor, Batik, which listed Burke as president, paid Burke and his real estate partner $100,000 more than the assessed fair market value of the property. Burke said at the time that the property was under-assessed.

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Batik eventually became Comprehensive Health Systems, which was the subject of an investigation by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) and his subcommittee that was looking into the medical-care business. Comprehensive was not singled out and the investigation was dropped.

During this time, Burke joined Omni-Rx Health Systems as a consultant and eventually rose to vice president. In 1976, Burke’s association with Omni-Rx was the subject of an investigation by the California legislature.

Assemblyman Barry Keene, seeing a possible conflict of interest for politicians with relatives involved in the management of a health-care business, authored a bill that would have forced Burke out of Omni-Rx.

The bill, which was eventually dropped, was clearly aimed at Burke and his wife, who was then in the U.S. House of Representatives. Keene’s health-care committee then sent the governor a letter charging that Omni-Rx had “improperly used health-care dollars to pay commissions to this individual (Burke) who enjoys considerable political influence.”

Burke then became involved in other ventures such as owning mortuaries, commercial real estate and development, and a mining company. He remains involved in some of these businesses, although he won’t describe any specifics about his current holdings or income.


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