Developer Bruce Makowsky improperly asked his associates to donate money to a Los Angeles City Council candidate, with the understanding that his company would reimburse them the money.
That was the conclusion of the L.A. City Ethics Commission staff, which recommended imposing a $71,000 fine on 1181 N. Hillcrest Road LLC, an entity Makowsky controls, according to the Los Angeles Times. The developer would not be personally liable for the amount, his attorney said.
The staff recommendation is the maximum allowable fine, according to the report. Makowsky asked associates to donate to candidate Joan Pelico’s Council campaign in 2015, the staff concluded, and said the LLC would pay them back.
Makowsky himself donated the maximum allowable $700 to Pelico’s ultimately unsuccessful campaign. Ten associates also donated, and were reimbursed by Makowsky’s entity. That violated city laws barring people from donating to political campaigns in someone else’s name.
The LLC takes its name from a Trousdale Estates address where Makowsky built a 23,000-square-foot mansion that sold for $70 million in 2014. The LLC appears on deeds for both the 2014 sale and the initial acquisition of the property two years earlier.
Makowsky was president of the entity and signed documents for the company agreeing to pay the fine, according to the Times. He also signed state documents dissolving the entity in 2017.
Next week, the full Ethics Commission will vote on whether to impose the fine. Ronald Richards, an attorney for Makowsky’s LLC, said it “accepted responsibility” for the violation and would pay the fine if the ethics commission approves it. He said Makowsky isn’t personally liable for the alleged improper request. Makowsky’s priciest home on the market remains the 38,000-square-foot Bel Air spec mansion, which is on the market for $150 million.
Makowsky isn’t the first developer to be found on the wrong side of political finance laws in L.A. A handful of commercial developers were of interest to an FBI investigation into bribery and extortion allegations surrounding donations made to pet charities of Councilman Jose Huizar.
Pelico is the longtime chief of staff to Councilman Paul Koretz. She lost that 2015 race for Council District 14, which David Ryu went on to win. City investigators said they found no evidence Pelico was aware of the donation scheme. [LAT] — Dennis Lynch