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July 16, 2004

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Publication Date: Friday, July 16, 2004

Council member owned stock in Clear Channel Council member owned stock in Clear Channel (July 16, 2004)

It's not a conflict of interest, say public officials

By Jon Wiener

Mountain View City Council member Mike Kasperzak owned small amounts of stock in the company that operates Shoreline Amphitheatre while taking part in council actions that affected the venue.

According to annual disclosure forms every council member is required to file, Kasperzak held between $2,000 to $10,000 worth of Clear Channel Communications stock from 2001 to 2003. During that time period, Kasperzak participated in discussions regarding the sale of the amphitheater's naming rights to Lycos and voted for concerts to start earlier.

Kasperzak said he believes he followed both the letter and spirit of the state law which regulates financial interest conflicts.

"I'm very conscientious about getting out when there's a conflict," said Kasperzak. "The rules recognize that in this day, people are going to own stock."

Kasperzak's fellow council members agree that he was not involved in a conflict of interest.

Council member Mary Lou Zoglin said Kasperzak's shares constituted "a teensy-weensy piece of a huge corporation. Whatever way he voted is not going to affect him even one scintilla."

Council member Rosemary Stasek said that Mountain View officials tend to surpass legal ethical requirements in their efforts to be fair. "We have a long record of recusing ourselves based on the appearance of a conflict of interest much less an actual conflict," she said.

State law allows public officials to make decisions that affect companies in which they hold small amounts of stock. The Fair Political Practices Act, a Watergate-era reform, applies varying standards based on the size of the company and the financial interest in question.

According to Sigrid Bathen of the state's Fair Political Practices Commission, elected officials can hold up to $25,000 in a Fortune 500 company such as Clear Channel and still participate in the decision-making process, as long as the potential financial impact on the company is less than $10 million.

The city's relationship with the amphitheater has been the subject of some controversy in recent months. The city and Clear Channel are suing each other over a contract dispute related to parking fees, and council members took heat for using the VIP concert tickets the contract provides them.

Kasperzak said the naming rights and start time issues were insignificant in terms of their financial impact on his holdings. But he recused himself from study sessions involving the legal struggle between the city and Clear Channel, ultimately selling his entire stake in July 2003 so that he could take part in the ongoing battle.

Kasperzak owned the stock through a managed account, and said that he instructed the account manager to "keep me out of Clear Channel." Kasperzak said he did the same thing with Home Depot when the hardware company was proposing a store at the former Emporium site.

"It's almost like a mutual fund," said Kasperzak. "I can't tell them what to buy -- I can tell them what not to buy."

Kasperzak was not yet on the city council when it approved plans to spend $3 million to improve the road entrance to the Amphitheatre in 1996, despite a media report to the contrary. He was elected in 1998 and re-elected in 2002.

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