LA WATCHDOG-The members of the Los Angeles City Council will lead you to believe that they are humble public servants who support an open and transparent City Hall. After all, these honest politicians who are accountable to the voters have nothing to hide as their primary interest is making Los Angeles a safe, fiscally responsible City that works for all Angelenos.
But occasionally a Council Member is caught with his hand in the cookie jar by the press.
Earlier this month, Dakota Smith of The Daily News revealed that Paul Krekorian had been hitting up city unions, lobbyists, and companies doing business with the City for dough to repay personal loans that were used to finance his failed campaign for the State Assembly in 2000. The Times followed up a week later with an editorial condemning Krekorian’s legal, but unethical behavior.
While Krekorian may have returned some or all of these campaign contributions, he should be censured by the City Council for this sleazy stunt and removed from his position as Chair of the very powerful Budget and Finance Committee. He is also one of the five members of the Executive Employee Relations Committee that recently approved a budget busting contract with the Police Protective League, a generous contributor to the Friends of Paul Krekorian.
The ubiquitous Tom LaBonge was the subject of a lengthy article by Allison Cohen in the Los Feliz Ledger which detailed how LaBonge diverted funds from his discretionary accounts to pay for his bloated staff and out of district charities while the streets and sidewalks in Council District 4 are some of the worst in the City.
The article also highlighted LaBonge’s stonewalling of legitimate requests for information under the California Public Records Act. These requests involved the use of his discretionary funds for an “Elvis Presley Birthday Celebration,” the Zoo’s Light Show, and the “Sister Cities Initiative” and the expenses for international travel for LaBonge and his entourage.
After the publication of this article, LaBonge appears to have overcome some, but not all, of his previous objections of “unusual circumstances” and that a “voluminous amount of separate and distinct records” would have to be examined to fulfill the public records request.
There is also the unanswered question of how LA City Councilman Jose Huizar financed the confidential settlement of the sexual harassment lawsuit filed by a former member of his staff, especially when his Statement of Economic Interests indicates very little liquidity. This lack of transparency involving a Councilmember who misbehaved on the public’s dime is unacceptable and, as such, the whole matter should be reviewed and analyzed by the City’s Ethics Department.
There is also the mystery surrounding the City Council’s $46 million bloated budget (almost $3.1 million per council district) and the discrepancy between the 108 positions in the budget compared to almost 300 staffers listed on the Councilmembers’ web sites. This raises numerous questions, including what is the source of the money that is paying for all these additional bodies and what are they doing, especially given that the City is a relatively simple organization that, unlike other large cities, does not have responsibility for education, public health and hospitals, social programs and welfare, criminal justice, and jails.
There are other issues that have raised eyebrows, including, but certainly not limited to, the quid pro quo demanded by billboard companies and real estate developers in return for generous campaign contributions, nepotism and the hiring of relatives of campaign donors, the use of surplus campaign funds, and the raid on the Port’s coffers.
The City Council cannot afford to be caught with its hand in the cookie jar by the press if it wants to earn the respect, confidence, and trust of the voters. Rather, City Hall needs to develop a proactive policy of transparency and accountability involving the budget, its finances, discretionary funds, labor negotiations, the efficiency of its operations, and all matters involving our City.
Otherwise, the City’s skeptical voters will rank the members of this City Council right up there with another Californian: Richard “I Am Not a Crook” Nixon.
(Jack Humphreville writes LA Watchdog for CityWatch. He is the President of the DWP Advocacy Committee, The Ratepayer Advocate for the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council, and a Neighborhood Council Budget Advocate. Humphreville is the publisher of the Recycler Classifieds -- www.recycler.com. He can be reached at: email@example.com)
Vol 13 Issue 33
Pub: Apr 21, 2015