LA City Councilman Turned Restaurateur Art Snyder Dies at 79

Snyder purchased the Don the Beachcomber brand after his political career was derailed by an influence-peddling scheme.

Wednesday, Nov 7, 2012  |  Updated 7:48 PM PDT
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LA Councilman-Turned-Restaurateur Dies at 79

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Former Los Angeles city councilman, lawyer and lobbyist Art Snyder, whose political career was derailed by an influence-peddling scheme, died Wednesday. He was 79.

Snyder died in his sleep three days shy of his 80th birthday, according to the management of the Huntington Beach restaurant he owned.

Snyder served on the City Council from 1967 to 1985, representing an Eastside district that included El Sereno, Highland Park, Eagle Rock, Glassell Park and part of Los Feliz.

Snyder became a successful lobbyist after leaving the council. But his career was derailed when he was accused of illicitly funneling hundreds of thousands of dollars in contributions to state and city candidates through a network of associates and his law firm between 1989 and 1992.

To avoid a trial on felony conspiracy charges, Snyder pleaded guilty to nine misdemeanor counts involving the laundering of campaign contributions. He was sentenced to six months in jail, fined $216,000 and banned from representing clients at City Hall for a four-year period.

Snyder appealed and won a stay of the sentence. A three-judge appellate panel subsequently dismissed the convictions, unanimously ruling that Snyder's failure to report all contributions he made through others could, at most, subject him to civil fines.

In 2001, Snyder had his law license suspended for six months by the State Bar, which also put him on probation for three years. The former U.S. Marine captain and USC Law School graduate admitted to “moral turpitude” and cooperated with the State Bar's investigation and probation, according to the Bar's website.

That same year, Snyder purchased the Don the Beachcomber brand and in 2009 bought the Huntington Beach restaurant named after the famous, free- spirited Donn Beach, the father of tiki restaurants and reputed inventor of the mai tai cocktail.

The restaurant released a statement Wednesday saying the thrice-married father of three “will leave a legacy for ages to come, but what he left in everyone's hearts will last a lifetime.”

Snyder was a regular presence at the restaurant and served as its “ambassador,” said Mona Shah-Anderson, a former consultant for the eatery.

Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich said Snyder “cared deeply about his constituents and served them admirably.”

“Fighting for increased patrols, emergency services and anti-gang programs, Art was a champion for law enforcement -- and believed strongly that public safety should be a top priority,” Antonovich said.

City Councilman Jose Huizar, who represents the 14th District that Snyder served, said he was saddened by news of Snyder's death.

“Art was a colorful character and a throwback politician who marched to the beat of his own drum,” Huizar said. “Through it all, Art Snyder faithfully represented an ever-changing council District 14 for nearly two decades and for that we all owe him a huge debt.”

Burial plans were pending, but a celebration of his life is planned for 3-8 p.m. Saturday at Don the Beachcomber.

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