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Travel expenses among reported SCV legislator gifts

Posted: March 5, 2014 7:06 p.m.
Updated: March 5, 2014 7:06 p.m.

A local state assemblyman’s trip to Eurasia costing thousands of dollars was the biggest gift item reported by any of the four Santa Clarita Valley representatives in the state Legislature, according to reports released recently by the California Fair Political Practices Commission.

Assemblyman Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita, reported $15,782 in gifts for airfare, hotel and meals from the Consulate General of the Republic of Armenia last year, according to records on file with the FPPC.

Wilk said Wednesday that amount was for a trip he and other legislators took to Armenia to learn more about the country, its history and its culture.

“My job is to represent my constituents and I have a very large Armenian community in my district,” he said, adding that no taxpayer dollars were used for the trip. “So learning more about the history and culture of the country makes me a more effective legislator.”

The first-term assemblyman, who represents most of the Santa Clarita Valley also reported $424 for Ultimate Fighting Championship tickets from Zuffa — a sports promotion company.

But Wilk said he went to that event to learn more about the oversight and regulation of UFC, not because he’s a fan of the sport.

“I’m glad to have gone to one, but I’d rather go to a baseball game,” Wilk said.

Travel-related gifts were also reported by another local legislator, state Sen. Steve Knight, R-Palmdale, whose district takes in central and eastern portions of the Santa Clarita Valley.

Those included $2,346.23 from the California Correctional Peace Officers Association, $2,314.15 from the Independent Voter Project, $460 from The First Tee of Silicon Valley — an organization that provides “educational programs that build character, instill life-enhancing values and promote healthy choices through the game of golf,” according to its website — and $125 from the Zonta Club of Santa Clarita Valley.

Knight made a speech or participated in a panel discussion during all of those trips, according to state filings.

“I think after almost every one of those panels and seminars we have crafted legislation or co-authored something,” Knight said, adding that he views such trips as an opportunity to speak with a collection of stakeholders at one time.

Another gift Knight reported included a $20 cowboy hat from the California Cattlemen’s Association.

Travel-related gifts were also reported by state Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills, whose Senate District covers western portions of the Santa Clarita Valley.

Reported gifts related to travel included a $710.95 gift for ground transportation, dinner and beverages from Presence Switzerland during a trip to Switzerland to learn about the country’s vocational education system.

Another was $528.89 for lodging, meals, beverages and transportation from The California Foundation on the Environment and the Economy to attend an energy conference.

Pavley also reported a gift of a potted plant, valued at $90.

The biggest reported gift item for another local legislator, assemblyman Steve Fox, D-Palmdale, was $275 for dinner from the California Grocers Association.

Fox said his general policy is not to accept gifts and that he will sometimes overestimate the value of gifts received to make sure he does not accidentally under-report something.

“In general we turn gifts away at this office so we won’t have any reporting problems or accusations of impropriety,” said the first-term assemblyman, whose district covers portions of Canyon Country and north Saugus.

One exception is a carved wooden statue, the value of which is reported as $50.

“That was carved by one of our constituents,” Fox said. “I treasure that.”
On Twitter @LukeMMoney




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