Council Refuses to Repay Garofalo

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Huntington Beach City Council on Monday rejected a request by member Dave Garofalo, under investigation by prosecutors over alleged conflicts of interest, to have the city pay his legal fees and any civil fines that stem from the criminal probe.

The council voted 5 to 1 against the proposal, which was placed on the agenda by City Atty. Gail Hutton at the behest of Garofalo and his attorney, Steve Churchwell. Garofalo did not attend.

Garofalo wants the city to reimburse him for all his legal fees, including the $30,000 he says he already paid his lawyer, according to documents filed with the city.

The state Fair Political Practices Commission and the Orange County district attorney's office are investigating Garofalo for voting at least 87 times on issues involving advertisers in the city's annual Visitor Guide, which he published.

Prosecutors also are looking at the purchase of a home Garofalo bought in July 1998 for $565,000 and sold a day later to a friend for $625,000.

The district attorney's office, which has served search warrants on Garofalo's home, business and bank accounts, would not comment on the status of the investigation.

Garofalo could not be reached for comment. He has denied any wrongdoing in his voting record, and said the higher price for selling his home was due to upgrades he made and that his actual profit was only $1.

Churchwell, a former general counsel of the Fair Political Practices Commission, has argued that if his client was acting within the scope of his job, the city is obligated to pay his legal bills for civil matters and to indemnify him for any fine. He said the council could pay Garofalo's legal costs on a criminal matter if it decides it is in the best interest of the city.

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