$50,000 Contribution to Yes on Measure B Examined by City Council

By On December 20, 2016

The Burbank City Council took up the donation made by the Burbank Hospitality Association (BHA) as part of the TBID to the organizers of the YES on Measure B campaign Tuesday night.

After several speakers spoke to the issues and the perceptions, the Council took up the matter.

It was established by Burbank City Attorney Amy Albano that the BHA is actually not a public agency dealing with tax money, but a private non-profit set up to promote 17 major hotels in Burbank.  Their funding actually shows differently on a customers bill with the City’s ‘Bed Tax’ being one item and the TBID as a different item.

“What was in question is whether an apparent agency of the City of Burbank could contribute $50,000 to a political campaign if was on the agenda at the meeting.” said Albano during the Tuesday night Council meeting. ”

She also added, “A request by a public member at the meeting for the donation was taken up by the group immediately and the donation was voted for in an apparent violation of the Brown Act.”

During the discussion it was noted that the City Attorney, staff and just about everyone else has determined that the donation was not appropriate. The BHA is considered a private non-profit, not a public entity and board members are not to be public officials.

What is basically is at question was not only if the donation is appropriate, but was it legal and was it something with intent that might be considered criminal.  The Council has decided to wait until a complaint filed by David Spell with the Fair Political Practices Commission on December 6th, which enforces campaign laws for the state through the Secretary of State’s office, comes back with an answer.

According to Spell, the Commission has confirmed that they will investigate the complaint.

Councilman Bob Frutos also brought up an additional motion that was passed directing the City Attorney to contact the District Attorney’s Integrity Unit about the situation.

Councilman Dr. David Gordon came out even stronger about the entire situation.  First during Council comments declared, “We will get to the bottom of this and there will not be any corruption going on in this City while I sit on the Council.” He further said later that this, “Situation stinks to high hell.”

Gordon also said that the City Attorney’s recommendations have not gone far enough and brought a motion to the Council to bring members of BHA into the council chambers and have them testify under oath. The motion died after there was no second.

What the Council did decide by unanimous vote was to approve the City Attorney’s recommendations on the staff report and also include that the 10 year agreement that they had recently voted for the BHA now be limited from 10 to three years at which time they have to show that they have adhered to all of the recommendations and have shown good faith in the meantime before the Council will give them an extension.

The staff reports recommendation included:

  1. Urge BHA to provide Brown Act training to its Board and staff; and provide the training to new Board members as seated;

  2. Reduce the TBID’s FY 2016/17 budget by $50,000. This may be accomplished by suspending collection of the assessment for an appropriate period of time;

  3. Bring back an amendment to the TBID agreement, as well as the Downtown PBID agreement, prohibiting assessment funds from being used for political campaigns. The next time any management district plan is being considered by Council add a provision prohibiting assessment funds from being used for a political campaign; and

  4. Negotiate amendments to the BHA/City agreement to remove the CD Director as a voting member of the board; convert payment for City staff program services to a time and material basis; provide that BHA must provide its own administrative functions including legal through its own staff or contracting with another private entity; require BHA to have its own office address and not use City facilities for Board meetings.