L.A.'s top building official to stay in job for another six months
The Los Angeles City Council Friday unanimously confirmed Mayor Eric Garcetti’s decision to keep Raymond Chan as temporary head of the city’s Department of Building and Safety for six more months.
Chan is one of more than 30 department heads Garcetti is reviewing as part of his months-long effort to build a new administration. Garcetti had promised during this year’s election campaign that he would inject new energy into City Hall by having general managers reapply for their jobs.
During Friday’s City Council meeting, opponents of the Hollywood Millennium project -- a twin skyscraper development near the Capitol Records building -- urged lawmakers not to extend Chan’s appointment. They cited an ethics complaint against Chan that officials recently closed without taking disciplinary action.
Chan was not present at the meeting. Councilman Tom LaBonge said during Friday’s meeting that “this was reviewed by the Ethics Commission, and the matter was cleared.”
The ethics complaint, filed in September by George Abrahams, a leading critic of the Millennium development, raised questions about Chan and his son’s employment with the law firm Sheppard Mullin, the lead counsel for the Millennium project.
The complaint said “it would certainly have the appearance of a conflict of interest” for Chan to make decisions regarding the skyscraper project while his son was “simultaneously working for Sheppard Mullin, the project’s chief advocate at City Hall.”
The complaint also raises questions about campaign contributions made by Chan’s son -- $2,600 to mayoral candidate Wendy Greuel, $1,300 to Garcetti and $700 to City Council candidate Cindy Montanez, according to the complaint.
In a letter to Deputy Mayor Kelli Bernard, Chan said that the allegations in the complaint were “false and frivolous.” He said that he did not make any decisions regarding the Millennium project before, during or after his son’s clerkship with Sheppard Mullin.
Jerry Neuman, a lawyer for Sheppard Mullin, has said that Chan’s son, Jeremy, was a paid student intern between January and May. The firm established a wall between the work performed by Chan’s son and any business the law firm had with the Department of Building and Safety, Neuman said.
Chan also said in the letter that his son made the campaign contributions on his own “because of his keen interest in local politics” and “wishes to be a very active member of our community.”
He added that because his son is a full-time student, Chan finances his son’s tuition and living expenses. “As such, when Jeremy wanted to partake and contribute in the recent election cycle, I was extremely enthused in his political activism and interest. However, he lacked the funds to sufficiently accomplish his goals. So, as I always do, I provided him with the financial and economic support for him to meet his ends.”
Chan said last month that he had been cleared of wrongdoing related to this ethics complaint.
Garcetti spokesman Jeff Millman said the mayor’s office also was informed that the Ethics Commission’s file on the complaint against Chan had been closed.
John Schwada, a spokesman for opponents of the Millennium project, said they were “dismayed and hugely disappointed” by the council’s unanimous agreement that Chan should continue in his position.
“The council gave the green-light to Chan’s reappointment despite a whirlwind of unanswered questions about his ethical conduct,” Schwada said. “Why wouldn’t the council at least call Chan into a public hearing and ask him to explain his conduct?”
Earlier this year, opponents of the project filed a lawsuit against the developer and the city alleging that the city failed to disclose important information concerning the location of the proposed skyscrapers in relation to the active Hollywood earthquake fault. A spokesman for Millennium said they will not be seeking building permits and fault trenching until the lawsuits have been resolved.
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