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Complaint alleges public funds were used to pay for pro-Measure B campaign mailers

Burbank airport terminals

Burbank voters in November approved Measure B, which allows the Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority to build a replacement terminal at Hollywood Burbank Airport.

(Roger Wilson / Burbank Leader)

A Burbank resident has filed a complaint with the California Fair Political Practices Commission, or FPPC, accusing the Burbank Hospitality Assn. of using public funds to pay for campaign mailers for the Committee for Yes on Measure B.

Measure B, a ballot measure that allows the Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority to build a replacement terminal at Hollywood Burbank Airport, was approved by Burbank voters during the Nov. 8 election.

David Spell told the City Council about his complaint during a meeting Tuesday night, telling council members that the marketing organization for Burbank, commonly known as Visit Burbank, gave at least $50,000 to the committee that was advocating for the ballot measure and used the funds to pay for campaign mailers.

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It will take about two weeks for the FPPC to review the complaint and issue a response to Spell, according to Jay Wierenga, a spokesperson for the FPPC.

City Manager Ron Davis and City Atty. Amy Albano were not available for comment.

Going through campaign disclosures on the city’s website after the election, Spell and two other residents learned about the contribution made by the Burbank Hospitality Assn. to the committee.

The association is in charge of distributing funds generated by the city’s Tourism Business Improvement District, which collects money from hotels through a 1% assessment on hotel stays.

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The association is made up of seven hotel managers, Lucy Burghdorf, spokeswoman for the Hollywood Burbank Airport, Tom Flavin, chief executive of the Burbank Chamber of Commerce, and Patrick Prescott, Burbank’s community development director.

Spell and the others allege that the $50,000 given to the ballot measure committee was used to purchase and distribute campaign mailers telling voters to support Measure B.

“It’s either a mistake or worse,” Spell said during a phone interview on Wednesday.

According to a city memo dated Sept. 20, former state Assembly candidate Sunder Ramani, a member of the Committee for Yes on Measure B, had asked the Burbank Hospitality Assn. on Sept. 14 to donate $50,000 to his organization “to educate Burbank residents on the importance of voting yes on Measure B.

The association approved making the donation, with Burghdorf recusing herself from the discussion and vote, and Prescott absent from the meeting.

According to the FPPC, it is illegal to use city funds on campaign material. Violations can range from a warning letter up to a $5,000 fine per violation, Wierenga said.

Spell added that though he was not comfortable saying that the city was trying to conduct illegal acts, he thinks there are outside interest groups trying to influence city decisions.

“From just examining the goings-on in City Hall, there’s a culture there that is definitely influential, and it has to do with big business and the [Burbank] Chamber [of Commerce].”

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Anthony Clark Carpio, anthonyclark.carpio@latimes.com

Twitter: @acocarpio

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