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EX-AIRPORT COMMISSIONER TO PAY FINE; CONTRACT WINNER'S CONTRIBUTION RULED IMPROPER.

Byline: Lee Condon Staff Writer

A former commissioner on the Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority has agreed to pay a fine for accepting campaign contributions from Parsons Corp. and then voting to award the company and its partners a $20 million contract.

Officials with the state Fair Political Practices Commission disclosed the deal Wednesday, saying they have reached a settlement agreement with Bill Paparian, a former Pasadena mayor and councilman who served for several years as a Pasadena appointee on the commission that oversees Burbank Airport.

Paparian's lawyer confirmed he will pay a $4,500 fine related to his acceptance of $4,000 in campaign contributions from companies involved in a joint venture called BGP Associates. Paparian voted as a commissioner to award an open-ended long-term contract to BGP Associates in separate commission actions in 1994 and 1996.

BGP Associates has agreed to pay a related $6,000 fine. BGP is a joint venture created by the Parsons Corp., HNTB Corp. and Parsons Brinckerhoff Construction Services to bid on projects related to the proposed expansion of Burbank Airport.

The joint venture was accused of not disclosing the Parsons contributions to Paparian when the Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority awarded BGP Associates a contract in May 1994, choosing it over five other firms.

According to an FPPC report, Paparian voted with the authority on May 2, 1994, to hire BGP Associates to provide program management and conceptual planning for the airport's proposed terminal expansion project.

``By accepting a $2,000 contribution from the Parsons Corp. so close in time to his May 2, 1994, vote to award the contract to BGP, Commissioner Paparian created an appearance of impropriety regarding the awarding of the contract,'' the report's authors wrote. ``The decision to select BGP as program manager would not have passed without his vote.''

Just two weeks earlier, Parsons Corp. officials approved a $2,000 contribution to the ``East Pasadena 4 Paparian'' Committee, which supported Paparian's council bids. Parsons Corp. reported making the contribution on April 29, 1994, three days before the vote. But company records show the check was mailed on May 9, 1994, seven days after the vote.

``Paparian violated Government Code section 84308 by accepting campaign contributions from BGP . . . while (matters) involving BGP were pending before the authority, by failing to publicly disclose the contributions on the record of the proceeding and by failing to disqualify himself from participating in or voting on decisions involving BGP,'' according to a report filed by FPPC staff.

Under state law, public officials cannot accept or solicit contributions for more than $250 from companies while they have a matter before the public official's agency. The restriction applies while the company's matter is being processed by the agency and for three months following a final decision.

The airport was looking to contract with a long-term partner for its expansion project in May 1994.

FPPC officials estimated the contract was potentially worth $20 million. Since the airport expansion has been stalled because of a battle between the airport and the city of Burbank, the airport has so far only paid BGP Associates about $800,000, according to a Parsons spokesperson. However, both airport and Parsons Corp. officials acknowledged Wednesday that the contract was open-ended, and neither disputed the FPPC's assertion of its potential worth of $20 million.

The FPPC also cited Paparian for voting to finalize the contract deal with BGP Associates in August 1996, shortly after receiving an additional $1,000 contribution from Parsons Corp. and a $1,000 contribution from a company closely affiliated with New York-based Parsons Brinckerhoff. Parsons Corp. and Parsons Brinckerhoff are separate companies.

Paparian, who is a lawyer, was a city councilman in Pasadena for 12 years until May 1999 when he lost his bid to become the city's first elected mayor. Paparian had served as the city's mayor during his stint as a council member, when the mayor's position was rotated among members of the panel.

While a councilman, his colleagues appointed him to serve simultaneously as one of the nine commissioners who oversee Burbank Airport.

Paparian could not be reached for comment.

His lawyer, Vigo G. Nielson Jr., said the former Pasadena mayor and councilman has agreed to the settlement deal offered by the FPPC. Under the law, the state puts a burden on politicians to know what is proper and improper.

``The law says you should know who not to receive money from and if you do, you should not vote,'' said Nielson, who denied that the contributions had any influence on Paparian's vote.

Had the checks been given by BGP Associates, the FPPC would have had a clear case against Paparian, Nielson said. But since the checks came from Parsons, Nielson said there was a ``gray area'' regarding whether Paparian should have known the contribution was inappropriate.

Even the FPPC acknowledged that Paparian had received incorrect advice from an airport lawyer, who told Paparian it was proper for him to vote despite the contribution.

Paparian has asked that the airport authority pay his fine. Airport spokesman Victor Gill said airport commissioners have discussed the item in closed session, but refused to say whether they have voted to pay the fine for Paparian.

Gill said airport lawyers have advised airport staff not to disclose whether the commissioners took any action on the Paparian payment.

Lori Valles, a spokeswoman for Parsons Corp., said company officials were not seeking to improperly influence the vote on the BGP contract.

``They were sure at the time that they were doing the right thing. It was a difference of opinion about how the rules worked,'' Valles said.

The FPPC will vote on whether to accept the fine settlement at its Oct. 8 meeting.

BGP Associates still has a contract with the airport, but the airport is not working with the venture on the expansion proposal it recently put before the city of Burbank for approval.

The Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority has also agreed to pay a fine to the state. The FPPC alleged the authority failed to report expenditures it made to fight a 1997 Burbank ballot initiative which created a transient parking tax. The authority has agreed to pay a $3,000 fine.

Gill said the authority filed the proper reports with the state but was late in submitting them.
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 30, 1999
Words:1045
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