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L.A. ethics panel rejects proposed $11,250 fine for Leslie Moonves as too low

Former CBS Chief Executive Leslie Moonves.
The L.A. City Ethics Commission rejected a proposed $11,250 fine for former CBS Chief Executive Leslie Moonves as too low. Moonves had agreed to pay the fine to settle a complaint that he interfered with a police investigation of a sexual assault case.
(Evan Agostini / Invision/Associated Press)
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The Los Angeles City Ethics Commission on Wednesday unanimously rejected a proposed settlement between the city and former CBS Chief Executive Leslie Moonves, saying a tougher penalty is warranted for the executive, who has acknowledged interfering with a police investigation into sexual assault allegations against him.

Moonves had agreed to pay an $11,250 fine to settle a City Ethics Commission complaint that accused him of inducing a government official to violate laws so that Moonves would have a tactical advantage in a police complaint against him.

Ethics Commission staff worked with Moonves on the proposed fine, but it still needed approval by the volunteer panel that oversees the department.

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Jeffery Daar, president of the Ethics Commission, acknowledged it was “somewhat unusual” for the panel to reject a proposed fine.

Under the terms of the L.A. Ethics Commission case, the former CBS boss admitted to inducing ‘a city official to misuse his position to attempt to create a private advantage for Moonves.’

Feb. 16, 2024

The commissioners felt that the “extremely egregious nature of the allegations” warranted a stronger penalty, Daar said.

Each count carried a maximum penalty of $5,000, or $15,000 for the three counts.

A Moonves representative declined to comment on Wednesday’s action.

The matter dates to November 2017, when former Los Angeles Police Cmdr. Cory Palka began working with Moonves and other CBS executives to allegedly bury a Los Angeles Police Department complaint made by a woman who had accused Moonves of sexual assault in the 1980s.

Palka, who has since retired, was then head of the department’s Hollywood station. He’d known Moonves for nearly a decade because he had been part of Moonves’ security detail for the Grammy Awards for several years.

Moonves’ career as head of CBS collapsed amid a widening sex scandal that came to light as part of the #MeToo movement. Moonves, who stepped down from CBS in September 2018, has denied harassing or assaulting women.

The ethics complaint detailed how, on Nov. 10, 2017, a former colleague, Phyllis Golden-Gottlieb, was inspired to speak out about her allegations of past dealings with the then-powerful TV executive.

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She drove to the Hollywood station to file a report against Moonves. Later that night, Palka called CBS officials and alerted them to the existence of Golden-Gottlieb’s report.

Over the next few weeks, Palka, Moonves and one of Moonves’ underlings discussed strategies to thwart Golden-Gottlieb’s report and worked to make sure it didn’t gain traction within the Police Department or the L.A. County district attorney’s office, according to records in the case, which came to light in late 2022 as part of a report by New York Atty. Gen. Letitia James.

James had accused Moonves and CBS of misleading investors about the scope of the sexual harassment uncovered at CBS — information that was damaging to the company’s stock.

The former CBS chief was accused of three violations of the city’s Government Ethics Ordinance, which governs the conduct of city employees and forbids them from misusing or disclosing confidential information acquired through their work.

Under terms of the proposed settlement, Moonves had agreed to pay a $11,250 settlement and acknowledged that he violated city laws by “aiding and abetting the disclosure and misuse of confidential information.”

He also admitted to inducing “a city official to misuse his position to attempt to create a private advantage for Moonves.”

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The ethics complaint also had accused Moonves of violating the city ordinance by inducing Palka “to create for Moonves the private advantages of access to confidential information from an LAPD investigation.”

Golden-Gottlieb passed away in 2022. Her children Cathy Gottlieb Weiss and Jim Gottlieb said in a statement that they were “surprised and disappointed” by the size of the proposed fine.

“Our mother placed her trust in the police department to conduct a fair and thorough investigation and never imagined that a police captain would allow the accused to use his connections in an attempt to derail the investigation,” they said.

The ethics board also on Wednesday rejected a proposed $2,500 settlement with Ian Metrose, the former senior vice president of talent relations and special events at CBS. Metrose admitted he violated city law by aiding and abetting the disclosure and misuse of confidential information.

Daar said the cases remain with the enforcement division at the Ethics Commission.

The City Charter lays out maximum fines for penalties, but the fines haven’t been updated in decades. The Ethics Commission is seeking to increase the penalties, Daar said.

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“Five thousand dollars doesn’t make sense today, particularly when you have very egregious allegations,” Daar said.

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