Garcetti amends filings to report ownership interest in property

Los Angeles mayoral candidate Eric Garcetti mingles with his supporters.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles mayoral candidate Eric Garcetti has amended two years of financial disclosure statements to belatedly report his ownership interest in a Beverly Hills property linked to an oil drilling operation.

Garcetti, who has the Sierra Club’s backing in his race against Wendy Greuel, signed a 20-year lease in the late 1990s that gave Venoco Inc. the right to drill under the retail property from the company’s oil wells at nearby Beverly Hills High School.

However, the city councilman from Silver Lake failed to report in his 2010 and 2011 disclosure filings that he co-owned the Wilshire Boulevard property, which houses a hair salon. Instead, he listed rental income he received from it as proceeds from his grandfather’s trust, another co-owner.


The amendments made to Garcetti’s city and state disclosure forms, as well as the statements he recently submitted for 2012, more clearly show his stake in the property.

Venoco has paid Garcetti only nominal lease fees — $1.25 per year — because it has not drilled under the Wilshire site. But the lease promised him a share of profits if Venoco extracted oil or gas from the location by slanting drilling from the high school.

Some Beverly Hills parents and residents have claimed the high school wells produce dangerous emissions of benzene, but Venoco insists the drilling has been safe.

It was not immediately clear whether Garcetti might face administrative penalties, including fines, because of the tardy property disclosures. Gary Winuk, enforcement chief for the state Fair Political Practices Commission, said the punishment in such cases depends on the specific circumstances of any violations.

Garcetti spokesman Jeff Millman said the campaign was confident Garcetti would not be penalized. “He amended the forms,” Millman said.

Meanwhile, according to city records, Garcetti voted in favor of a 2002 pipeline franchise for a Venoco subsidiary, raising questions of whether he had a conflict of interest because of his lease arrangement.

State law generally prohibits elected officials from voting on matters in which they have a direct financial interest. Millman said Garcetti did not violate any rules because he had no monetary interest in Venoco.

A Venoco spokeswoman said the 12-0 vote was for either a renewal or transfer of an old franchise and resulted in no new pipeline work.

Earlier in the mayoral campaign, Greuel, the city controller, and others accused Garcetti of an improper conflict by voting in 2006 for a lucrative deal with a billboard firm while owning stock in its parent company, Clear Channel Communications. Millman said at the time that Garcetti did not know he held a financial interest in the billboard firm.

After The Times reported in February that Garcetti had the Venoco oil lease, he said he would donate any earnings from it to the Sierra Club. He later severed his ties to Venoco and assigned the lease to a family friend, with no money changing hands.

From 2007 through 2009, Garcetti listed the Beverly Hills property on his disclosure statements, but omitted it in the years before and after that period. Millman said Garcetti had received conflicting advice over the years on how to report the property.

Garcetti has not amended the disclosure statements for the years before 2007. The FPPC’s statute of limitations apparently has expired for those years.