BURBANK — As voters learn of City Council candidate Gary Bric's criminal record, he hopes it won't mar his chances in April for one of two open seats.
Court documents show that Bric pleaded guilty to driving under the influence of alcohol in June 1997 and was arrested in 1990 after he was accused of being involved in bookmaking, which is accepting bets on results of sporting contests. The bookmaking charges were dropped after the district attorney prosecuting the case would not reveal the identity of a key informant in the case.
An affidavit written by investigating Los Angeles Police Department Det. Russell Butz relied heavily on information from that undercover informant, who performed surveillance on Bric and two other defendants named in the case. The informant alleged that Bric accepted wagers at his residence, also acting as a pay-and-collect person for a gambling operation. The informant also alleged that he often settled up on wagers with Bric at Conrad's Bar and Restaurant, where Bric was working as a bartender.
Bric maintains his innocence in the bookmaking charge, which he said is evidenced by the fact that when another defendant in the case, Arthur Hanlon, was convicted for bookmaking in February 1991, the charges against Bric were dropped.
"I know the arrest doesn't look good, but I hope people will look at the fact that all charges were dropped against me after the bookmaker pleaded out," he said.
Bric was upfront about his drunk driving conviction during his endorsement interview with the Burbank Police Officers Assn. in 2003, which was his first bid for a council seat, he said.
"I take 100% responsibility for that," Bric said. "It was a huge mistake; I was guilty as charged; and it's something I will never do again."
The Burbank Police Officers Assn. stands behind its endorsement of Bric and does not want the past to overshadow the positive things Bric would bring to the council if elected, union President Mike Parrinello said.
"He was up front with us and we discussed a lot of other ideas and think he will be very pro-police and pro-citizens of Burbank, so we didn't want to use the past against him," he said. "We want to focus on the issues, not something that happened years ago."
In regards to Bric's bookmaking arrest, Parrinello points to the district attorney's dismissal of the charges.
"The bottom line is as police officers and an association, we have faith in our legal system," Parrinello said. "Gary was not convicted of the crime and … if the courts say he was not guilty and they decide not to prosecute him, we have faith in our system. And that leads us to believe that he must not have done anything wrong."
Bric's record also shows a disturbing the peace citation in 1986, an offense Bric said is related to his selling alcohol to two intoxicated persons when he was a bartender. The citation had nothing to do with disturbing the peace in legal sense, he said. Rather, Bric opted to accept the citation so that the alcohol sale would not negatively impact the bar's standing with Alcoholic Beverages Control officials.
When citing Bric, the police officers also arrested the two people he served alcohol to on charges of being drunk in public, Bric said. One was released from police custody because the their blood alcohol level did not exceed the legal limit, he said.
"It's strictly a judgment decision on the bartender," he said. "And if the police were wrong on one when they took the person in and if the police were wrong — it's a borderline decision, that's all."
A background check on the other three candidates in the April election — Carolyn Berlin, Philip Berlin and Anja Reinke — turned up a 2004 charge against Carolyn Berlin for outside lighting that was allegedly shining into adjacent home. Those charges were dropped.
"We were able to resolve the problem with our neighbor and the owner of the property even though the city threatened us to escalate the charges if we made contact directly with the neighbor," Carolyn Berlin said.
The Berlins had installed the lights in 1981, at the suggestion of a police officer, after hearing reports from a neighbor that her house had been robbed twice in six months, Philip Berlin said.