Anaheim to Return Campaign Law Fines

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Anaheim will reimburse the campaign committees of Councilman Frank Feldhaus and former Councilman Irving Pickler for more than $46,000 in fines and attorneys' fees stemming from a special prosecutor's investigation into alleged campaign finance violations.

In a 3-2 vote in closed session, which had Feldhaus voting in the majority, the City Council awarded the Friends of the Frank Feldhaus Committee $15,000 and the Friends of the Irv Pickler Committee $31,372. The two other votes in favor were cast by Mayor Tom Daly, who is seeking a similar award of $100,000, and Councilwoman Shirley McCracken, who was also accused of wrongdoing and fined.

"I feel like justice has prevailed," Feldhaus said. "It points out that this whole thing was an absolute sham."

"I'm content," Pickler said. "I'm glad I can put it to bed, relax and not have to worry."

But Councilman Tom Tait objected, saying that an outside attorney advised the council that the claims would not have been awarded in a court.

He said Feldhaus should not have voted, but Feldhaus said the money was taken from his committee illegally and he had every right to vote to give it back. He said he plans to donate some to the Anaheim Boys and Girls Club and use the rest to run for reelection in two years.

Pickler said that funds given to his committee will repay a loan he made to his committee for attorneys' fees.

City Atty. Jack White said he sought the advice of the California Fair Political Practices Commission, which did not object to Feldhaus voting.

Conflict of interest laws prohibit government officials from voting when the official has a financial interest in the issue. The councilman had no financial stake because the campaign committee, not Feldhaus, will recover the money, wrote the FPPC's assistant general counsel Luisa Muchaca.

Though the special prosecutor in the Anaheim cases was Ravi Mehta, former chairman of the FPPC, the commission said they did not have a conflict of interest either in issuing the opinion to Anaheim.

In a separate action taken Tuesday, the council unanimously agreed to put a measure on November's ballot that will prohibit the city from hiring any more special prosecutors.

The awards and ballot measure are the latest twists in a political scandal that dates back to the 1996 city election.

After that election, then-Councilmen Bob Zemel and Lou Lopez voted to hire Mehta to investigate allegations of campaign finance violations. The laws limited donations to $1,000 for local candidates. Other council members abstained, either because they were being accused of wrongdoing or because, they said, it was a waste of money.

The special prosecutor accused Feldhaus of delaying reports on $6,000 in contributions and failing to include in campaign reports the addresses and telephone numbers of several contributors.

Daly and Pickler were accused of both contributing and accepting donations that exceeded legal limits and failing to report some donations.

McCracken was accused of failing to list occupations and employers of 35 campaign contributors in a reporting statement.

Mehta filed misdemeanor charges against Pickler, Daly and Daly's former wife and treasurer, Debra Daly. He also threatened criminal prosecutions against Feldhaus and McCracken.

Feldhaus and McCracken paid fines of $10,000 and $6,500. A judge dropped charges against the Dalys and Pickler, saying the city had no authority to hire a special prosecutor.

The council fired the special prosecutor after he had racked up bills of more than $300,000 over six months.

The council has yet to vote on claims made by the Dalys.

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