By Helga Gendell
Part XXII of the Marina history series continues to address the business ties and legal problems at the time affecting state Sens. Alan Robbins and Joe Montoya, and Mark Nathanson, a Beverly Hills real estate investor and member of both the California Coastal Commission and the county Small Craft Harbor Commission.
Part XXI introduced the three individuals and their relationship to Marina del Rey.
Montoya had been handed a political “hot potato” in June 1985 according to the Los Angeles Times when lobbyists for the then Marina del Rey Lessees Association persuaded him to step in and carry a bill to block the drive to incorporate Marina del Rey.
Nathanson had paid a fine of $13,400 for failing to disclose millions of dollars in business interests while serving as a member of the Little Hoover Commission between 1983 and 1985, according to the Los Angeles Times. He had agreed to pay the fine after what the state Fair Political Practices Commission called “repeated and wholesale omission” from his required financial disclosure statements, noted the Los Angeles Times.
In August 1988, Robbins and Brandon Birtcher, principal partners in Marina East Holding Partnership, reached an agreement to sell a 16-acre site at Lincoln Boulevard and Admiralty Way to the J.H. Snyder Co.
In a March 31, 1989 Los Angeles Times article titled “U.S. Agents Search Capitol Lobby Firm in Montoya Inquiry,” reporter Paul Jacobs wrote, “Widening their investigation of state Sen. Joseph B. Montoya (D-Whittier), federal agents armed with a warrant searched the offices of a politically well-connected lobbying firm, the owner of the firm confirmed.
“The investigators n five from the FBI and one from the Internal Revenue Service n searched the files of Governmental Advocates, Inc. for more than four hours. The agents were seeking evidence of possible violations of federal extortion, racketeering and conspiracy laws, according to the search warrant, which listed a series of special-interest bills that either had been authored by Montoya or had moved through the Senate committee he chairs,” the Times article reported.
“Several of the measures affected clients of Governmental Advocates lobbyist Jerry Zanelli and the firm’s owner, Hedy Govenar. Zanelli, a longtime friend of Montoya, is the former chief executive officer of the Senate. He has strong ties to top Democratic legislative leaders, including Senate President Pro Tem David A. Roberti of Los Angeles,” stated the Times article.
“There was no indication that either Zanelli or Govenar is a target of the FBI’s investigation.
“However, several sources familiar with the federal investigation said Montoya is one of the principal subjects of the three-year inquiry into political corruption in the Capitol called Brispec (for bribery n special interest). The investigation came to light last August when FBI agents raided the offices of Montoya, three other legislators and two legislative aides.
“No state official has been charged with a crime, but in recent weeks federal authorities have stepped up their investigation of Montoya and some others, subpoenaing financial records and other documents and interviewing lobbyists and legislative staff, according to sources.”
The Times article continued, “The same sources said they expect the first indictment of a legislator to come in the next several weeks, but they cautioned that public corruption cases are often slowed by unanticipated delays.
“Montoya’s attorney, Michael S. Sands, said he was unaware of the search, ‘and at this time I have no comment.’
“This week, U.S. Attorney David F. Levi, who heads the investigation, went to federal district court to obtain a warrant to search the files of Zanelli and Govenar, whose office is located across the street from the Capitol. Levi would not comment on the search warrant, which was ordered sealed by the court,” the Times article stated.