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Media Coverage
Firefighters Union Amends Pac Report
December 19, 1997



Friday, December 19, 1997
Section: news
Page: A03
Scott Andrews 

RICHMOND The city's powerful firefighters union, which admitted Wednesday that it misreported nearly $15,000 in political donations, tried to clean up its act Thursday by filing new campaign finance statements with a state watchdog agency. 

But the problems may only be deepening for the political action committees of International Association of Firefighters Local 188 and its powerful consultant, Darrell Reese. 

Richmond City Councilman Tom Butt, who is frequently at odds with the union, said he filed a complaint over the misreported donations Thursday with the Fair Political Practices Commission, the state watchdog agency. The complaint is almost certain to start an investigation that would last at least two weeks. 

The union's problems may also be spreading from its main PAC to one created this year to battle Richmond tax Measure H. Reese said his union has no record of who contributed $16,000 raised through ticket sales to a firefighter-sponsored circus that produced income for both PACs. State law requires bookkeeping on all contributions worth $25 or more. 

The union's problems first came to light Wednesday. The union said it was trying to balance its books in the wake of Proposition 208, the state's new and stricter campaign finance law, when it attributed $14,955 in contributions to 95 retired firefighters. But the former city employees never contributed a cent, Reese said. 

He explained that the union simply took the PAC's total income, including revenue from the circus, and divided it among all retired and active firefighters. He said it was a way to keep the contributions within Prop. 208's new $250 per person limits. The move may have violated state law, because the sources of some of the contributions were people who bought circus tickets. 

Reese and the union have been accused in several other controversies; there have been allegations of attempts to bribe Richmond City Council members and of hidden campaign contributions as far afield as San Ramon. Reese and the union were not convicted or fined in those cases. 

But Reese did not seem completely confident of a happy ending this time. 

"There may be some things that we have done that are impossible to bring into compliance, although I don't think that is the case. In that case, I am sure that we will be subject to a fine (from the FPPC)," he said. 

Reese denied his most severe critics' accusation that the misreported money concealed over-the-limit campaign contributions by local businesses. Such charges are politically motivated, he said. PAC Treasurer Richard Kalayjian and union President Henry Hornsby said they were confident of full exoneration. 

The amended campaign statement Reese said he filed Thursday with the FPPC shows that each active firefighter gave $250 to the main PAC and that no retirees contributed. But the statement, covering Sept. 21 through Oct. 23, fails to account for contributions made through the circus. It also does not report the exact date of the contributions, which is required by state law. Statements for other periods, which include information that conflicts with the amended statement, were not revised, Reese said. 

Firefighters make contributions through payroll deductions of $70 per month, Kalayjian said. 

This is not the first time the circus has come under scrutiny. Investigations into improper influence by developer William Oldenburg in 1984 scrutinized whether his contributions to the PAC were misrepresented as circus revenue, Reese said. 

Another FPPC investigation of Local 188's PAC, initiated by a complaint from Butt, is pending. He accused the union of not obeying rules limiting contact between PACs running independent campaigns and the candidates they support. 

Reese countered by saying he has filed two complaints with the FPPC asking for an investigation of possible wrongdoing by Butt and others during the 1997 election.