The Second Coming of Garofalo

Photo by Jack GouldBill Borden's run for a seat on the Huntington Beach City Council sounds like the second coming of Mayor Dave Garofalo.

Check out the cover of his glossy campaign brochure, on which Borden proudly flaunts Garofalo's endorsement—right next to endorsements by Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R-Huntington Beach) and Assemblyman Scott Baugh (R-Huntington Beach). They were grooming Garofalo for higher office until political-corruption allegations attracted government investigators and a citizens' recall effort.

“I am endorsed by 13 former mayors of Huntington Beach,” Borden told the Weekly when asked about his connection with Garofalo. “And I am proud of every one of those endorsements.”

Over the years, however, Borden has been especially devoted to Garofalo. He has repeatedly stepped forward to support Garofalo's controversial causes, such as erecting a gigantic Wal-Mart on the site of a neighborhood school or founding Pacific Liberty Bank in conjunction with substantial investments from developers George Argyros (who is building the Wal-Mart) and Chris Gibbs (who grant-deeded Garofalo an expensive house). Through it all, Borden has consistently defended Garofalo against charges of illegal or unethical behavior.

And why not? Borden and Garofalo make a big deal about attending St. Bonaventure Catholic Church. And Borden's investment portfolio also includes potential conflicts of interest. Like Garofalo, his campaign contributors are mostly rich businessmen and developers, some with business before the city.

And the men share the same vague way with words. In his campaign brochure, Borden cites a business career in which he “climbed to senior management positions in two Fortune 500 companies” and then, after the fashion of Garofalo, fails to specify the positions or identify the companies. Maybe that similarity is due to the fact that Garofalo and Borden are both newspaper columnists. In fact, Borden used to write for The Local News, the community paper Garofalo used to publish until businessman Ed Laird (whose family is a major contributor to Borden's campaign) acquired it in 1999 under still-confusing circumstances.

Differences between them? Hmmm . . . well . . . Garofalo is not a member of the Honorable Order of Kentucky Colonels, a distinction Borden shares with the likes of Lee Majors, Lily Tomlin, Paul Shaffer and the one-hit-wonder rock group Exile (“Kiss You All Over,” No. 1 in September 1978).

Otherwise, Borden has been firmly in Garofalo's corner. In July 1998, when Garofalo's conduct in office began to attract widespread criticism, Borden's “As I See It” column in the Huntington Beach Wave presented a point-by-point defense:

•Garofalo passed on to the developer of his Huntington Beach home a list of city employees' home addresses. Borden wrote, “There is no written city policy against giving out such a list.”

•Garofalo voted to fund the city's Visitor's and Conference Bureau, which awarded him an exclusive no-bid contract to publish its tourism guide and keep all the advertising revenue. Borden wrote that Garofalo's guide “promotes Surf City to thousands of tourists and prospective new businesses nationwide.”

•Garofalo sold ads for The Local News by using a two-sided business card—one side identifying him as a councilman, the other as the paper's publisher. Borden wrote, “I don't see this as a big deal, nor can I understand why anyone would object to such a practice.”

Last December, Borden phoned the Weekly, angry over a story revealing Garofalo's investment partnership with Argyros and Gibbs in Pacific Liberty Bank while voting several times in favor of Argyros' Wal-Mart project and Gibbs' PLC Land Co. issues. Garofalo defended himself by insisting his investment in a local bank was so tied to the best interests of the community that it was almost charitable. Borden agreed, sort of.

“Dave Garofalo has done nothing wrong,” said Borden, who also invested in Pacific Liberty—albeit not with such a concern for the community. “A little bank like that is a great investment. You hold on to your shares for a few years and get a great return. Look at [formerly small Huntington Beach bank] Liberty National. After a few years, another bank came along and bought it, and everybody who owned shares got fat off the deal.”

Like Garofalo, Borden went on to play a major role in last March's ballot fight over the Wal-Mart. He argued in favor of the huge discount store in a televised debate. But Borden never revealed his own financial stake in the outcome: according to financial disclosure documents, he owned between $10,001 and $100,000 worth of Wal-Mart stock.

Borden sold his Wal-Mart stock on July 12, but he currently owns between $10,001 and $100,000 of stock in Hilton Hotels Corp. But he dismisses concerns that he would be prevented from voting on issues related to Huntington Beach's Waterfront Hilton.

“I own stock in Hilton International,” Borden said. “The hotel project in Huntington Beach is through the Robert Mayer Corp., which is a privately owned company. They just happen to have a Hilton Hotel franchise on their property.”

If elected, said Borden, his decisions about potential conflicts of interest would be “guided by the advice of the city attorney.”

Of course, that's lately been Garofalo's line, too.

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