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Mayor denies guilt after indictment

Barbara Diamond

Laguna Beach Mayor Wayne Baglin is scheduled to be arraigned Nov.

15 on charges of violating a state government code prohibiting

elected officials from profiting from city contracts.


Baglin has denied any guilty action, but has declined further

comment on the advice of his attorney.

“Whatever Wayne did, he thought he was doing something

acceptable,” Village Laguna President Bette Anderson said. “He is


innocent until proven guilty.”

The Orange County Grand Jury voted to indict Baglin last week, one

day after hearing testimony from city officials. His attorney said

the questions concerned the sale of two properties on Third Street to

the city, which Baglin brokered and for which he accepted a

commission from the property owners.

Baglin had been in office for about two months when he represented

property owners Dorothy and Edgar Hatfield in the sale. He did not


vote on the purchase and made no secret of the commission.

Acceptance of the commission would not have led to legal action if

the sale had been to any other party than the city. Other offers were

reportedly made for the property.

The council did discuss making the purchase by eminent domain, but

never completed the process. City Atty. Philip Kohn said that an

eminent domain purchase probably would not have made it acceptable

for Baglin to receive a commission.


“There is no case law on point, but more than likely it would not

have altered anything,” Kohn said.

The transaction has been under investigation for more than a year

by the Orange County district attorney’s office, which was alerted by

local residents. Baglin reportedly declined to accept an offer from

the district attorney to return the commission, said to be $36,000,

and make the whole controversy disappear.

Baglin’s attorney, Michael Molfetta, scoffed at the accusations

against Baglin even before the grand jury handed down its decision to


“I think this is politically motivated,” he said.

Molfetta said he didn’t know whose “ox had been gored.”

Baglin has on occasion been at odds with fellow council members,

staff and community groups. He is a proponent of what he calls

“daylight (open for public view) government operations.”

He has claimed he was never told that accepting the commission was

a violation.

However, Kohn asked for recess of a council meeting shortly after

Baglin was elected to his third nonconsecutive term, when discussion

raised the issue of a possible conflict of interest. Kohn’s request

for a recess was videotaped, as part of a regular council meeting.

Details of the conversation have not been revealed, cloaked by

attorney-client privilege.

“My professional code requires that I assert the privilege and

only the client can waive that privilege,” Kohn said.

The court could find there was no privilege and ordered Kohn to


If convicted under State Government Code Section 1090, Baglin

could be fined up to $1,000, jailed or barred forever from holding

public office in California.

Should Baglin give up his seat on the council for any reason

before his term ends in December 2004, State Government Code 36512

specifies that the vacancy could be left unfilled until the next

regular election, filled by council appointment or by special

election. An appointment could be until the special election or for

the remainder of the unexpired term.

“The indictment will not have an effect on the council,”

Councilwoman Cheryl Kinsman said. “This has been hanging over our

heads for a long time. We will go on about our business.”

* BARBARA DIAMOND is a reporter for the Laguna Beach Coastline

Pilot. She may be reached at 494-4321.