Officials say they have had trouble finding a prosecutor without ties to the ubiquitous campaign treasurer, who already faces a federal charge of mail fraud.

By Patrick McGreevy, Los Angeles Times
December 13, 2011

Reporting from Sacramento— A state investigation has concluded that campaign treasurer Kinde Durkee provided clients with accounting services without a license, officials said Monday. But they have had trouble finding a prosecutor without ties to the ubiquitous political aide.

Durkee is already facing a federal charge of mail fraud that includes allegations of mishandling campaign funds from a state lawmaker’s account. A separate investigation by the state Board of Accountancy now has determined that she lacked a license, which board spokeswoman Lauren Hersh said would be a misdemeanor that could result in up to six months in jail and $1,000 in fines.

The state filed its report with the Burbank city attorney’s office for possible prosecution, because Durkee’s office is in that city. But the agency turned down the request, citing a potential conflict of interest.

Durkee was the campaign treasurer for a Burbank City Council member who took part in the appointment of the city attorney and will be involved in future evaluations of her work.

“Therefore, there is a potential conflict of interest and an appearance of impropriety which prevents our office from prosecuting this case,” Burbank Assistant City Atty. Denny Wei wrote in a letter to the state board.

The board subsequently sent its investigative report to the office of Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley, but he too has had ties to Durkee. She worked on his political officeholder account from December 2000 through June 2001. She also was treasurer for two members of the Board of Supervisors, who vote on Cooley’s budget.

Cooley spokeswoman Jane Robison said the D.A.’s ability to take the case is under review.

Former prosecutor Steve Meister, now a Los Angeles defense attorney, said he would be surprised if the district attorney’s office acted.

“Because she [Durkee] is facing serious federal charges in a case that is already underway, my guess is the D.A. will pass on filing a misdemeanor,” Meister said.

The next stop for the state board’s case could be California Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris, but Durkee was the campaign treasurer for one of Harris’ opponents in last year’s race for the office, state Sen. Ted Lieu (D-Torrance). Shum Preston, a spokesman for Harris, declined to comment on the matter Monday.

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