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Donations to City Council candidates from real estate developer draw criticism

Incumbent Burbank City Councilman David Gordon, left, and candidate Juan Guillen said they both received and have returned unsolicited campaign donations from real estate developer Michael Cusumano.

Incumbent Burbank City Councilman David Gordon, left, and candidate Juan Guillen said they both received and have returned unsolicited campaign donations from real estate developer Michael Cusumano.

(File photos)

Burbank Councilman Bob Frutos racked up and spent the most money out of the eight candidates vying for three open seats on the City Council before the primary election, and two candidates received money from a major developer, which is raising some concerns.

Frutos, a retired police officer with the Los Angeles Police Department, received $19,472 in cash donations from November 2016 to Feb. 22. The Glendale Burbank Republican Assembly, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and the Walt Disney Co. were some of the notable donors to the councilman’s reelection campaign.

Additionally, Frutos spent $11,659 during that period, mainly on mailers, campaign paraphernalia and advertisements in local media outlets. He has $10,312 left in his campaign account.

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Frutos also lent himself $2,500 and received $945 in non-monetary contributions, which were mainly campaign buttons, a fundraiser and fliers.

Another incumbent, Mayor Jess Talamantes, who was also able to keep his council post by garnering 51.4% of the votes, received the second highest amount of cash donations — $8,278 — during the same period. Additionally, he lent himself $3,000 and received $293 in non-monetary contributions.

Talamantes, a retired firefighter, spent $3,994 mainly on campaign materials and signs, leaving him with $7,283 in his coffers.

Councilman David Gordon, another incumbent in the race, received $7,850 in cash donations and lent himself $1,000.

Gordon, an optometrist, spent $4,363 primarily on campaign letterheads, signs and postage. He has $4,486 left in his war chest as he heads to the general election next month, squaring off against Frutos and challengers Sharon Springer and Juan Guillen.

Springer, a nonprofit administrator, received $3,945 in cash donations and did not make any loans to herself. After spending $1,827, mainly on campaign materials, she has $2,117 left at her disposal.

Guillen, who is running for City Council for a third time, received $2,085 in cash donations and lent himself $2,045. A small business owner, Guillen spent $2,395 primarily on fliers and Facebook ads. He finished with $1,734 in his campaign account.

Springer and Vice Mayor Will Rogers have expressed concerns about donations that Gordon and Guillen received from Michael Cusumano, a prominent real estate developer in Burbank.

Cusumano, who is building the Talaria mixed-use project that Gordon and Guillen have spoke out against, made a $400 donation to both candidates on Feb. 14.

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FOR THE RECORD

A previous version of this article included a paraphrased statement attributed to Sharon Springer about candidates accepting donations which was incorrect. Springer did not make that statement.

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“It’s outrageous that David Gordon will blame anybody but himself for accepting a campaign contribution from Michael Cusumano,” Springer said. “It infuriates me.”

Both Gordon and Guillen acknowledged that they both received an unsolicited donation from Cusumano. To prevent any possible conflicts of interest with any of the developer’s future projects, the two candidates decided to return Cusumano’s money and did so on Feb. 25.

“I understand that council candidate Sharon Springer and Vice Mayor Will Rogers have insinuated to the public both verbally and through social media that somehow this contribution casts a nefarious shadow over my integrity,” Gordon wrote in an email on Thursday. “It’s unfortunate that both Mr. Rogers and Ms. Springer felt obligated to pounce on this non-issue to immediately sling mud rather than recognize my intention to remain transparent and accountable to the people I represent.”

Guillen added that he knows it was not the best idea for him to accept Cusumano’s donation and he thinks that the developer meant no ill will toward himself or Gordon.

Looking at the finance reports of others in the council race, first-time candidate Konstantine Anthony received $3,309 in cash donations as well as a $2,800 loan he gave himself. Additionally, he received $9,833 in non-monetary donations, which he used for Facebook advertisements.

Anthony, a social media manager, spent $2,114 on campaign signs and for access to the Polis canvassing smartphone app. He finished second to last in the primary election, with $1,581 left in his coffers.

Richard Carr, who ran for City Council for the first time, received $208 in cash donations during his campaign. To bolster his funds, he lent himself $300.

Carr, a retired property manager, spent $388 on campaign materials. Additionally, he has $677 in unpaid bills for fliers and mailers. He ended up with $120 remaining.

Candidate Greg Sousa received $125 in cash donations and lent himself $1,200. A studio transportation driver, Sousa used $895 for campaign materials and ended with $429 left.

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Anthony Clark Carpio, anthonyclark.carpio@latimes.com

Twitter: @acocarpio


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