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Former O.C. Prosecutor to Head State Commission

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Gov. Pete Wilson announced Wednesday that Ravinder Mehta, a former Orange County prosecutor and aide to County Board of Supervisors Chairman Gaddi H. Vasquez, will take over as chairman of the Fair Political Practices Commission.

“Ravi’s extensive legal experience as a prosecutor and civil practitioner, coupled with his integrity and high ethical standards, makes him exceptionally well qualified to serve as chairman of the Fair Political Practices Commission,” the governor said in a written statement.

“As California’s chief enforcer of political laws, Ravi will be charged with the task of interpreting campaign laws written and enacted by the people of California.”

Mehta, 35, who has been the governor’s deputy appointments secretary since November, 1991, met with his new staff Wednesday and expects to start his new $95,400-a-year post immediately.

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In between packing up his belongings at the governor’s office, Mehta said he’s looking forward to the challenges of his new post, one he realizes is “not a place where everyone loves you.” He said he expects his experience as a prosecutor and civil attorney will help in what he believes most understand is “an important job in the state.”

“When the voters passed Proposition 9 (in 1974), they wanted to basically weed out all the bad people out there,” he said. “I want to go after the people who commit these violations willfully and those who commit them with gross negligence, who just don’t care for the law.”

Mehta, a Republican, previously worked as a senior litigation attorney in the Orange County office of Jones, Day, Reavis & Pogue, according to the governor’s office.

Between 1989 and 1991, Mehta was executive assistant to Vasquez. Before that, he worked in the Orange County district attorney’s office and served as a trial prosecutor in the gang unit, where he prosecuted high-profile felony cases, including prosecution of a young La Habra man convicted of six armed robberies during breaks from his studies at Harvard.

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“He’s always been a high-energy, very enthusiastic guy. He does love public service,” Vasquez said. “He has had an opportunity to sample a lot of good things in his professional career. I think this is one he’ll take on with vigor and a lot of enthusiasm.”

Mehta’s legislative experience includes work as an assistant to former U.S. Sen. S.I. Hayakawa from 1979 to 1981. And in 1986, at age 26, he ran unsuccessfully for a seat on the Cerritos City Council.

Mehta, whose family moved from India 25 years ago, received his bachelor of arts degrees in economics and political science from UCLA in 1980. He graduated from Whittier College School of Law in 1983.

The commission’s primary responsibility is the administration and implementation of the Political Reform Act, approved by voters in 1974. The act covers disclosure of campaign receipts and expenditures, regulation of lobbyists and disclosure of their finances, disclosure of assets and income of public officials and enforcement of these provisions.

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