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DWP commissioner hosted fundraiser for candidate in apparent ethics violation

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A Los Angeles Department of Water and Power commissioner held a fundraiser for City Councilman Paul Koretz’s campaign for city controller in an apparent violation of city laws pertaining to political fundraising.

Jill Banks Barad-Hopkins co-hosted a fundraiser at her Sherman Oaks home on Oct. 23, a Koretz representative confirmed this week.

Barad-Hopkins also advertised the fundraiser, according to a mass email she sent on Oct. 11 that was reviewed by The Times. Barad-Hopkins attached a flier for the event created by Koretz’s team to the email. The flier included a form to give money to Koretz’s campaign.

The email sent by Barad-Hopkins was first reported this week by the online publication Knock LA. The flier sent by Koretz’s campaign announcing the fundraiser at Barad-Hopkins’ house circulated on Twitter for months as his opponents in the controllers’ race and others questioned the legality of the event.

City ethics rules bar commissioners from holding fundraisers for political candidates or from soliciting or directing contributions. Commissioners are also not allowed to host fundraisers at their homes or use their names in fundraising materials.

Barad-Hopkins didn’t respond to requests for comment. A longtime civic leader, she was first appointed to the DWP board by Mayor Eric Garcetti in 2013.

Parke Skelton, campaign consultant for Koretz, called the selection of Barad-Hopkins’ home an “inadvertent mistake” and said the money raised at the event, about $8,000, is being returned to donors.

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“This event had been scheduled at a different location, and the location was hurriedly changed at the last minute due to a health issue,” Skelton said. Skelton said the event was originally set to be at the home of Francine Oschin, who runs a government affairs firm.

Oschin, who co-hosted the event at Barad-Hopkins’ house, said Skelton’s explanation was “probably correct.” “We had talked about doing it there,” Oschin said, referring to her own house. “I can’t tell you for sure, I don’t remember.”

Skelton also told The Times that Koretz, a longtime politician who served in the state Assembly and on the West Hollywood City Council, “always strives to follow every rule and regulation.”

Councilman Paul Koretz.

Money raised at the event — about $8,000 — for controller candidate Paul Koretz is being returned to donors, according to a consultant.

(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

Asked about Barad-Hopkins’ apparent breaking of ethics rules, Garcetti spokesman Harrison Wollman said the mayor’s office is looking into the issue.

The L.A. City Council voted in 2004 to bar city commissioners and board appointees from engaging in campaign fundraising activities, a response to the investigations into appointees of then-Mayor James K. Hahn.

One of former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s pension board appointees resigned in 2009 after his involvement in a campaign fundraiser for then-City Councilman and city attorney candidate Jack Weiss.

Barad-Hopkins’ fundraiser for Koretz comes at a fraught time for the DWP, which is facing an ongoing federal corruption investigation into contracts and bribes at the agency. Two DWP executives, including the former general manager, have pleaded guilty. A former outside consultant, Paul Paradis, is awaiting sentencing.

Separately, Paradis filed an ethics complaint last month against former DWP board president Mel Levine, another Garcetti appointee.

The complaint alleges that Levine violated city ethics rules as a commissioner by taking actions that were beneficial to the law firm where he works, according to Paradis’ complaint.

Levine’s attorney, Daniel Shallman, said the allegations are without merit.

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