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County lawyers ask if Palmer broke the law

Posted: March 13, 2008 1:28 a.m.
Updated: May 14, 2008 5:03 a.m.
 
County counsel lawyers are now trying to determine whether or not Las Lomas Land Co. owner Dan S. Palmer broke the law when he identified himself as the sole owner of 555 acres he intends to develop as a housing complex.

Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich asked county counsel head Raymond J. Fortner Tuesday about a discrepancy revealed in the review of Las Lomas land ownership - specifically, a review of land application documents listing the company as sole owner of 14 parcels of land on the east side of The Old Road near Highway 14.

"This is a request that county counsel would investigate the misrepresentation on land use application and determine if any laws or regulations have been broken," Antonovich said at Tuesday's meeting of the county Board of Supervisors.

Paul Novak, planning deputy for the supervisor, explained after the meeting that the recently-completed review of Las Lomas land documents by the Department of Regional Planning was the first step in addressing the supervisor's motion, investigating the matter further for any violation of laws including county codes is the next step.

"Las Lomas signed the land application as a matter of record, under penalty of perjury, as the sole owner when there are clearly two different property owners," Novak said. "Not only did this raise questions with (R. Fred) McHaddad but those same questions were also raised by our staff.

"McHaddad came to us with his concerns about the same time as our staff raised concerns," Novak explained. "We typically send out letters to verify information and to see if anything is missing. And, one of the issues that was raised in this case was ownership.

"On this application, the record clearly shows something else."

On Feb. 8, The Signal reported McHaddad and his wife Janet, of Van Nuys, own 251 acres of Palmer's proposed 555-acre hillside community, and that Palmer identified the Las Lomas Land Co. as the sole owner of the property on a 2003 zoning and subdivision application.

On Feb. 12, Antonovich asked the county Board of Supervisors to look into the matter and determine who owns the property.

Two weeks ago, County Chief Executive Officer William T. Fujioka released the findings of the planning department showing 12 parcels of land, half owned by Las Lomas and the other half owned by McHaddad.
Antonovich followed up on Fujioka's report Tuesday when he asked Fortner to review the legality of the claims made by Palmer on the land application.

Did Palmer break the law when he declared Las Lomas the sole owner of 555 acres?

That's the question Antonovich now wants answered.

Rick Weiss is the assistant county counsel investigating the matter.

"We are asked by the board to report back on what we find," he said Wednesday. "What, if any, the repercussions should be based on what we find in the applications."

Weiss said he anticipates his probe will take about two weeks to complete.

While the District Attorney's office investigates criminal matters, the county counsel's office investigates civil matters and specifically the enforcement of county codes.

The two departments work together, Weiss said.

"Violations of county codes could expose someone to a criminal charge and criminal prosecution," he said, speaking in general terms.

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