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Ender: Money didn’t affect stand

Posted: August 4, 2008 10:36 p.m.
Updated: October 6, 2008 5:01 a.m.
 
Santa Clarita City Councilwoman Laurie Ender said Monday that she began supporting Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial’s expansion plans long before a private developer paid $30,000 to help get her elected to her first council term in April’s election.

“It was probably a year and a half ago when I started campaigning that I really came out strong on behalf of wanting to see the hospital expansion,” Ender said Monday. “Some of that was based on my personal opinion, but mostly, spending that year campaigning, I did a lot of precinct walking going door to door, talking to residents, real people that live in Santa Clarita. Not political people, but residents.”

Newly released campaign finance disclosure forms revealed G&L Realty Corp. — the company that owns and manages the medical office buildings on the hospital’s campus — donated $30,000 to an independent committee called Citizens for Integrity in Government in March. The committee then spent $29,500 on mailers encouraging voters to elect Ender in the April City Council election.

Records for Ender’s own committee — the Friends of Laurie Ender Committee — show thousands in contributions from hospital officials and local physicians as well.

A big part of Newhall Memorial’s controversial expansion plans includes three new medical office buildings owned by G&L.

At a February City Council debate, Ender said she would “love to see the hospital raise in status.” She said that an improvement to the hospital includes adding the medical offices, buildings that others had called unnecessary. At other debates, she said more medical office buildings would help draw more specialists to the Santa Clarita Valley.

The other candidates said they supported the hospital’s intention to expand, but were skeptical of the hospital’s commitments to building the key feature — a 120-bed inpatient building.

Residents and activists have also criticized the plans that they say only guarantee G&L’s medical office buildings, while the inpatient building is contingent on several variables. The hospital is now revising the development agreement to include more commitments based on direction from the council in 2007.

Ender said Monday when the plans come before the council, “It’s not as though we’re going to rubber stamp something,” she said. “That is not the case. This has been hacked at and cut back and trimmed back many, many times and people should feel really good about that ... They have scaled it down to something that looks like something that may work and that is thanks in a large part to the public.”
David Gauny, who heads up SmartGrowthSCV, said Monday he is angry to see so much money from a developer influencing an election.

“Nobody gives a campaign $30,000 without knowing their agenda,” he said. “If perception is what it’s about, she’s going to have to come a long way to prove she’s not bought in this vote.”

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