A History of Antonovich's Ethical Lapses
Pay (My Wife)-to-Play Politics
In 2011, the Los Angeles Times reported that Antonovich "may have violated a state conflict of interest law in connection with a proposed downtown football stadium."(1)
He introduced a motion to oppose Anschutz Entertainment Group, which was trying to build an NFL stadium in downtown LA. At the same time, Antonovich's wife sought hundreds of thousands of dollars in consulting fees from the company's affiliate in Shanghai.
From the LA Times:
Christine Hu Antonovich introduced AEG Business Management Consulting, a Shanghai-based company focused on developing sports venues, to officials in China in 2008, according to attorneys for both sides. Last year, she informed the AEG affiliate that she was contractually owed more than $200,000 for that work.
AEG alleged this week that the financial claim posed a conflict of interest. Antonovich defended his motion during the board meeting, but then withdrew it.
AEG was in negotiation with Antonovich’s wife regarding the question of her contract when Supervisor Antonovich used the motion to shake them down. AEG later notified the LA County attorneys of the conflict of interest:
“…it is not appropriate for Supervisor Antonovich to introduce a board motion at this time - let alone participate in any county decision - which could have a financial impact on AEG, a potential source of income to his wife."(2)
The Taxpayers Can Pay for Me to Get Around
In 2010, the Los Angeles Times reported that Antonovich uses part of his annual discretionary budget to pay for his car and driver. The Times was able to account for most of his spending, including $1.1 million in donations to outside groups, but Antonovich refused to disclose how much he was paying his driver.(3)
This was not the first time Antonovich was questioned about his travel expenses. In the 1990s he ordered County helicopters to fly him around to where he needed to go. The LA Times noted that “[h]e made at least 12 chopper trips in 1995, with those flights totaling $6,587” – an amount that would come out to $10,278 today.(4)
From the Los Angeles Times:
[Antonovich] commandeered a county Fire Department chopper...to get to a state Transportation Commission in Irvine.
Antonovich's liaison to the Fire Department, Lori Howard, said county pilots need to be continually flying to meet federal accreditation regulations anyhow -- an assertion that fire officials said is not true. Howard also said the helicopters were supposed to stay in use and airborne so they can be ready to respond to wildfires.
If only his constituents could get around that way.
Showing Love to the Lobbyists – No Matter How Bad the Deal
In 2008, Antonovich voted against awarding a “multimillion-dollar welfare-to-work contract to a new firm”, siding with the previous contractor, Maximus, which spent $200,000 lobbying the county, and ordering the contract be re-bid.(5)
Maximus had been given the opportunity to submit a bid, despite the fact that its “work has repeatedly been criticized as being inadequate” over the 13 years it had held the contract.
Maximus has a lengthy history of playing politics to get government contracts. As the LA Times noted, a New York judge barred the company from receiving $100 million in city contracts there after ruling that the procurement process was ‘corrupted.’ And it even took former aides to President Ronald Reagan still working in Sacramento, Los Angeles and for Maximus to “smooth out” a deal to use Maximus to privatize parts of the county’s welfare program in 1989.(6)
My Overseas Trips are None of Your Business
In 2003, the Pasadena Star-News criticized Antonovich for “his numerous trips to China”, arguing that Antonovich “needs” to explain to his constituents what those trips entailed.(7)
Santa Monica Mountains for Sale!
From the Amicus Journal:
…Los Angeles County officials promised to limit development to help preserve the mountains. They approved a growth plan to balance building against the beauty and danger of the western part of the mountains, a rugged, 160-square-mile landscape plagued by fire, flood, and mudslide.
But in the next two decades, the Board of Supervisors and county planners repeatedly manipulated the growth plan to favor developers, helping to fuel a building boom that has clogged roads, packed schools, and degraded delicate natural habitat. All told, the county approved in piecemeal fashion what amounts to a massive subdivision, allowing developers to build 2,200 homes on land designated for 1,000--and for substantial returns. One additional lot in some parts of the Santa Monica Mountains can sell for $1 million.
Why was the plan manipulated? Because developers were paying off Michael Antonovich.
In most cases, the developers who benefited from the extra homes had contributed to the campaign coffers of Mike Antonovich. During his reign as supervisor between 1981 and 1991, the original growth plan was altered thirty-seven times, or an average of nearly once every three months. In all but a few cases, developers got permission to build more houses--in one instance, 700 percent more--than the plan specified. Often the donations to Antonovich came in the days and weeks surrounding key votes on controversial projects.(8)
Marina del Rey for Sale!
According to the Los Angeles Times, “[F]our days before voting to approve what was considered a precedent-setting extension of a county land lease in Marina del Rey at below-market rates, Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich received campaign contributions from at least two firms that represent other properties in the Marina.”(9)
Let Me Influence a Judge for You…
In 1988, Antonovich called Judge Eric Younger, a family friend, and “brought up the case of Krikor Suri and his business partners in a downtown Los Angeles jewelry mart. The two were being sued by fellow investor Avedis Kasparian.” “Suri and his partners had contributed $13,000 to Antonovich's 1988 reelection campaign just days before and after the call.”(10)
Kasparian later sued Antonovich, alleging “Antonovich had spoiled an out-of-court settlement that he had been negotiating because the phone call to Younger diminished his adversaries' incentive to work out a deal.”
The case made it all the way to the appellate court level. The LA Times reported:
The three judges of the 2nd District Court of Appeal declared that the jury in the Los Angeles trial had more than enough evidence to conclude that "Antonovich had allowed his political supporters to induce him to attempt to influence a Superior Court judge in a pending case."
"This is unacceptable behavior," the opinion continued. "That it was done in the context of the contemporaneous receipt of substantial political contributions from the individuals in whose favor the influence was sought makes it all the more reprehensible.”(11)
The Antonovich case inspired legal changes to prevent taxpayers from being held responsible for damages incurred by official misconduct.
In 1994, the California State Legislature passed three laws “protecting taxpayers from court damages incurred by elected officials found liable for misconduct.” The laws were a response to Los Angeles County being held responsible for a portion of the $1.2 million in damages a jury awarded to Avedis Kasparian after determining Antonovich “conspir[ed] to influence a judge on behalf of a campaign contributor.”(12)
Los Angeles Times, 9/2/2011
Los Angeles Daily News, 8/30/2011
Los Angeles Times, 3/11/2010
Los Angeles Times, 2/10/1999
Los Angeles Times, 11/19/2008
Los Angeles Times, 6/20/2000
Editorial, Pasadena Star-News, 3/26/2003
The Amicus Journal, 3/22/2000
Los Angeles Times, 5/23/1992
Los Angeles Times, 12/10/1995
Los Angeles Times, 12/2/1995
Los Angeles Times, 9/28/1994