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|Sunday, November 25, 1990
Partner's Land Deal Was Aided by Mayor; Lancaster: William Pursley
acknowledges his role in getting the City Council to change a
development requirement but says he did nothing wrong.;
By: JOHN CHANDLER
TIMES STAFF WRITER
Lancaster Mayor William Pursley pushed the city to change a
development requirement last June for land owned by a business partner,
which the partner said helped him sell the property and also earned a
commission for the real estate office where Pursley works.
City records show Pursley introduced and voted on a City Council item
June 18 to reduce an easement along one edge of the nearly one-acre
parcel, located at the northeast corner of Avenue M and 4th Street East.
Lancaster insurance broker Clyde Golding, an owner of the property and
also Pursley's business partner, said the reduction made "a major
difference" in completing the sale of the property, which was already in
escrow. The city had sought the easement for a traffic acceleration lane.
State law requires elected officials to avoid participating in or
voting on decisions having a "material financial effect" on their
financial interests. State regulations define those interests to include
sources of income, such as employers, and business partners who have the
type of relationship that exists between Pursley and Golding. The two are
equal partners in an unrelated real estate venture.
Pursley, who already is the subject of a state inquiry for failing to
disclose at least several hundred thousand dollars of his income last
year, acknowledged his role in the council action but said he did nothing
wrong. The mayor also said he could not remember who sought his aid but
is certain it was not Golding.
Golding, however, said he asked the mayor for help while the two men
were at a golf course. He said he believed the easement would have cut
about $15,000 from the sale price because it would have reduced the size
of the lot.
The sale was handled through Mid Valley Real Estate, a Lancaster
agency Pursley co-founded and has continued to work for since he sold his
interest several years ago. The parcel sold for $242,955, according to
the county assessor's office.
When escrow closed in early August, Mid Valley received a $22,177
commission, said Charla Abbott, the agent who handled the sale. Abbott
said she received a $8,234 share of the commission.
Pursley appointed Abbott to the city's Parks, Recreation and Arts
Commission shortly after his election in March 1989. She is also
president of the Antelope Valley Board of Realtors.
Sandra Michioku, a spokeswoman for the state's political watchdog
agency, the Fair Political Practices Commission, confirmed its rules
against conflict of interest by politicians. But Michioku said the
commission was not aware of any actions Pursley might have taken on
behalf of Golding and therefore could not comment.
Michioku said the FPPC is still reviewing Pursley's failure to
disclose all of his economic interests. At the behest of the FPPC, the
mayor filed a new statement last month listing previously unreported
sales commission income and other interests.
At issue in the Golding transaction was a demand by city officials
that he and his partners give up a 14-foot-wide strip of land along 4th
Street that could be used as an acceleration lane for traffic coming from
The City Council voted in February to approve development standards in
the area that included acceleration and deceleration lanes at various
intersections, including the one at Golding's property.
City Public Works Director Jeff Long said his department was
originally approached by representatives of the owners but had refused to
change the easement. Sometime later, Long said, he was called to a
meeting with former City Manager Steve West and Pursley and asked to
review the department's position.
Records show that Pursley then placed the issue on the agenda as a
"special item," which can be added after the regular agenda is set.
Because the item was rushed, public works staff didn't have time to
prepare a formal report, Long said. Instead, Long gave the council
diagrams of the site and discussed the situation with council members at
Although Long said the department did not change its position, he did
discuss the option of reducing the easement to four feet. Pursley and
three other council members voted for the reduction. The fifth member,
Arnie Rodio, was absent.
The issue was important, Golding said, because the price the buyer,
Farmers Insurance Exchange, had agreed to was based on a formula tied to
the square footage of the site. The more land the city took for road
purposes, the lower the purchase price.
"It made the difference in my own opinion between being a good and a
bad business transaction," said Golding, who is chairman of the board of
Antelope Valley Bank. His business, Antelope Valley Insurance Agency, has
served as the city of Lancaster's insurance broker for many years.
Golding said he wasn't aware of the easement when he struck his deal
with Farmers. He said he believed the 10 additional feet could have
reduced the sales price by about $15,000. "I wanted the dollar value up
to the original commitment," he said.
According to real estate records, Golding and his partners bought the
property in September, 1989, for $150,000. The deed shows that Golding
and his wife had a half interest, as did his daughter and son-in-law,
Craig Carlton. Farmers is now starting to build a 6,400-square-foot
claims office on the site.
Golding and Abbott, in interviews with The Times, said the city did
not need to take so much land. Golding said he might not have sold the
parcel if the council had not reduced the easement because the price
would have been too low.
Pursley told The Times he thought owners of other land in the area had
asked him to reduce the easement for Golding. At the time of the council
vote, Pursley said he knew Golding owned the property and that it was in
escrow. But he said, "I never got a call from Golding."
Pursley said his other recollections of how and why he brought the
item to the council were fuzzy. Pursley said he did meet with Long, but
he doesn't remember what was said. The mayor said he had originally
informed the Mid Valley office that Golding was looking to sell his land.
"If I would have thought there was any conflict, I would have
abstained" from the council vote, Pursley said. "I don't feel I did
anything wrong. I had no ulterior motives. My sole concern was to satisfy
the total project" area where the city had set development standards.
Pursley and his wife and Golding have been 50-50 partners in a real
estate venture, Purgold Properties, since 1985, according to the mayor's
economic interest statements. At the time of the council vote, Pursley
and Golding said, Purgold held a trust deed on property sold in 1989.
That property, about one acre, is near a Lancaster industrial park. It
was sold for at least $350,000, according to real estate records. Pursley
and Golding also had other prior shared property ownerships. Campaign
records show Golding contributed $1,000 to Pursley's 1989 campaign for
PHOTO: Lancaster Mayor William Pursley introduced and voted on a
City Council item to reduce the size of a road easement. "If I would have
thought there was any conflict, I would have abstained," he says.
PHOTOGRAPHER: DAVID BOHRER / Los Angeles Times
Copyright (c) 1990 Times Mirror Company
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