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Tue, Jan

LA City Council Discretionary Slush Funds Drained, Mejia Needs to Investigate

LA WATCHDOG - We will have five new members on the City Council next week as Councilmen Cedillo, Koretz, Bonin, O’Farrell, and Buscaino depart from City Hall. 

But these five rascals have been very busy allocating funds in their discretionary slush funds to their pet projects, leaving little behind for the newly elected Councilmembers. 

Not much is known about these discretionary slush funds, but we do know that there is lots of cash available to the Councilmembers.  Sources of these funds are derived from numerous sources, including, but not limited to, the sale of surplus real estate in the Councilmembers District, street furniture fees, franchise fees, pipeline fees, tipping fees, and State AB 1290 funds.  

During the Villaraigosa administration, the Mayor asked the members of the City Council to help reduce the City’s budget deficit by contributing a portion of their discretionary slush funds to the City’s General Fund.  At that time, it was rumored that there was more than $25 million stashed away in the funds.  But judging by the reaction of the Councilmembers, you would have thought their heads would be on the chopping block.  Needless to say, not much was contributed.  

Over the last two months, numerous motions have been submitted by these Councilmen directing that their slush funds be directed to a variety of pet projects.  Unfortunately, the flow of funds is very difficult to follow because the relevant accounts are designated by numbers with no descriptive information. 

In one case, an expenditure requested by Councilman Mike Bonin was opposed by Councilwoman-elect Traci Park who sent a letter opposing the expenditures that later became part of the council file.   

The lack of transparency regarding these discretionary slush funds is unacceptable.  This does not mean that these funds should be abolished.  It does mean that we have a veto over the allocation of these funds.  It means that we have a right to know the sources of the cash and how our money is being spent. 

Pulling back the curtain on the discretionary slush funds should be one of the first tasks of Kenneth Mejia, our new City Controller, who ran on a platform of greater transparency.  Or was his call for transparency just campaign rhetoric?   We’ll see.

 (Jack Humphreville writes LA Watchdog for CityWatch. He is the President of the DWP Advocacy Committee, the Budget and DWP representative for the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council, and a Neighborhood Council Budget Advocate.  He can be reached at:  [email protected].)