One of Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s pension board appointees stepped down Tuesday after The Times inquired about his involvement in a campaign fundraiser for City Councilman and city attorney candidate Jack Weiss -- an activity that violates the city’s ethics law.
Kelly Candaele, who had been on the Los Angeles City Employees’ Retirement System Board of Directors since 2005, was one of six hosts of the event Monday in Beverly Hills, according to the invitation.
The City Council voted in 2004 to bar city commissioners and board appointees from engaging in campaign fundraising activities, as a response to the investigations into appointees of then-Mayor James K. Hahn. The law prohibited those officials from calling contributors or appearing on fundraising invitations.
Roughly four hours after The Times asked Villaraigosa’s office about the event, Candaele submitted his resignation letter, saying he had put his name on the invitation by mistake. “Although I did not raise or contribute any political funds, this is inconsistent with the ethics pledge I signed when appointed to serve,” he wrote.
Two other hosts of Weiss’ fundraiser hold positions with Wetherly Capital, a company that has promoted investing opportunities to two city pension boards, including the one on which Candaele served. Wetherly, known in industry circles as a “placement agent,” has become a subject of interest in recent weeks for investigators looking into allegations of kickbacks at the New York state pension fund.
Weiss, who is running to replace City Atty. Rocky Delgadillo in the May 19 election, will give back roughly $20,000 raised from Monday’s event, said his campaign consultant Ace Smith. “Jack Weiss believes that his campaign must be held to the highest standards,” Smith said in a statement.
Weiss’ opponent, Carmen Trutanich, said the councilman should have known better and took action only after getting caught. “He got caught with his hand in the cookie jar,” he said.
Top advisors to the mayor, upon learning of the violation, requested that Candaele submit his resignation, a Villaraigosa aide said. In a statement, the mayor described Candaele as an upstanding leader who made “an honest mistake.”
Weiss’ fundraiser occurred just days after The Times reported that two other Villaraigosa pension board appointees, Sean Harrigan and Elliott Broidy, had received letters from the Securities and Exchange Commission seeking information on any income they have received from companies doing business with their agency. They serve on the Los Angeles Fire and Police Pensions board. The SEC also asked Broidy and Harrigan for information on their communications with Wetherly and two other companies linked to the New York pension probe.
New York Atty. Gen. Andrew Cuomo filed an indictment last month against onetime New York pension official and political consultant Henry Morris. Wetherly and the firm Morris worked for, Searle & Co., have shared fees for deals at three major pension funds in California. Wetherly representatives said the firm is cooperating with investigators.
The Weiss fundraiser was at the home of Richard Ziman, an unpaid advisor to Wetherly Capital. Ziman and his wife were listed as hosts, along with Wetherly’s managing director, Dan Weinstein. A Wetherly representative said Weinstein did not attend the event.
Weinstein and other Wetherly employees have contributed $54,700 to city candidates since 2002, including at least $1,500 to Weiss, according to the city Ethics Commission. Wetherly clients have contributed at least $12,750 to Weiss.
A day after attending the fundraiser, Candaele voted with colleagues to require that placement agents be identified when representing firms seeking contracts with the City Employees’ Retirement System.
Wetherly spokesman Daniel DelRe said Tuesday that he didn’t immediately have names of firms Wetherly represented before the city employees’ pension board since 2006. Companies listed as clients on Wetherly’s website have secured multimillion-dollar commitments from the board in recent years. It was not clear if Wetherly helped get those deals.
Candaele said that he wasn’t sure whether he had met with Wetherly managers on city business but that his support for Weiss was “totally unrelated” to the firm.
Times staff writer Phil Willon contributed to this report.