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Mason, Berlin not interviewed by ethics commission

Thu, Aug 6, 2009

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As of early this morning, the Independent Ethics Commission had yet to release the results of their investigation into alleged conflicts of interest involving Mayor Lionel Rivera.

We don’t know who the ethics commission interviewed during their investigation, or whether they made use of their notably weak powers of subpoena. As we pointed out when the investigation was first launched, the commission has the power of subpoena, but there’s no prescribed penalty for failure to comply.

We may not know who was interviewed, but we do know a few individuals who were not.

Real estate investors Jack Mason and Ward Berlin, both of who were involved in now-settled lawsuits with LandCo and Ray Marshall, were not asked to appear.

Why not?

Berlin and Mason may know the details of any financial involvement that Mayor Rivera may have had with Marshall and LandCo. Mason’s lips are sealed, however, because the court documents that may conatin any such details were sealed by court order, and remain so, as a consequence of the settlement agreement.

If the commission has subpoenaed the documents, who knows what might have happened? Would have Mason’s lawyers released them-or would have lawyers representing LandCo, Marshall or the mayor contested any such release? We’ll never know-and not because the ethics commission has been careless or negligent.

The scope of any commission inquiry is limited by law to events that took place no more than a year prior to the receipt of a complaint. The Mason/Berlin lawsuits were filed well before that deadline, so the commission has evidently concluded that they fall outside the purview of the investigation.

So whatever the commission decides, the rumors may continue to fly. That’s unfortunate – but it’s the inevitable result of the commission’s inherent toothlessness, not because of any coverup or failure to investigate the obvious.

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