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MEASURE TIGHTENS DEALINGS OF MTA; WILSON SIGNS BILL ON BOARD CONDUCT.

Byline: David Bloom Daily News Staff Writer

A third bill aimed at reforming the troubled MTA and its influence-riddled contract award process was signed into law late Monday by Gov. Pete Wilson, strengthening a tight code of conduct for board members and politically insulating the agency's inspector general.

Assembly Bill 584 puts into state law - where it will be harder to change - a code of conduct the Metropolitan Transportation Authority board imposed on itself in January under federal pressure.

The wide-ranging code forbids board members from pressuring staff members on contract awards, contacting would-be contractors or directing contributions by the contractors to favored charities or other recipients.

``I feel the various MTA reform bills open up a new era in the way the MTA interacts internally and with its contractors and vendors,'' said Arthur Sinai, the authority's inspector general.

Sinai largely authored the original conduct code, which he called ``very draconian.''

``By enacting strict limits on contributions and also by codifying the code of conduct, which limits the ability of board members to affect the impartiality of awards, it will open up the door for purely competitive bids that will be decided on . . . merits, instead of on other external factors,'' Sinai said.

A state judge cited too many ``external factors'' recently when he threw out an $85 million subway contract award made last year after repeated meddling by board members.

In the controversy over the award, Chief Executive Officer Joseph Drew quit, while disgusted federal officials froze subway funding, forced the code of conduct's creation, and demanded the agency come up with a workable plan to get its rail projects back on schedule and budget.

AB 584 also gives the inspector general a four-year term, to insulate the job from political pressure. Early removal would require a two-thirds board majority, or for such reasonable cause as breaking the law.

The measure is the third MTA reform bill Wilson has signed since July, all taking effect Jan. 1. The other two are:

AB 1143, which gives the CEO the same four-year term and super-majority protection from removal that the inspector general gets. The CEO also will have more control over contract awards.

The bill also eliminates the board's 13 alternate members, who have been blamed for their own meddling and excessive demands.

Senate Bill 89, which sets the state's tightest campaign contribution limits for companies seeking MTA contracts. It also substantially tightened ``revolving door'' rules on contractors hiring MTA workers.

Agency lawyers are reviewing legally questionable provisions in SB 89 that retroactively ban board members from voting on any contract if they have received more than $10 the previous four years from a bidder, MTA officials said.
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 15, 1997
Words:446
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