By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
But the majority of the big, old-time business bodies are gone from downtown. ARCO’s about to be merged away to England, and the Times is doing front-page back flips to apologize for its own Staples Center interest conflict. And now the big O, Ernst & Young and Lord-knows-who-else seem to have been following W.C. Fields‘ advice to the letter, gently shaking down the school district by gulling it along in a $200 million project the most ordinary paralegal could have spotted for a loser. The big downtowners appear in the Mullinax report to have played the district for a sucker.
And even if, as Fields said elsewhere, you really can’t cheat an honest man, honesty never seems to have been a factor with the overseers of the Belmont Learning Complex.
Don‘t Go There
One of the least-publicized findings of the Mullinax report is at the very beginning. That it has nothing to do with who-done-what may be why it was so widely overlooked. To wit:
“The internal auditor believes that, notwithstanding the following findings, the policy goal was correct [and] that if the Belmont Learning Complex can be finished in a manner that achieves the twin goals of public safety and educational excellence, it should go forward.”
In other words: Let’s get to work and try to move ahead if we can. Words to the wise, but lost on some key LAUSD participants.
Instead, LAUSD Chief Operating Officer Howard Miller has just veered from that objective by picking a fight with the Proposition BB Oversight Committee on the administration of BB funds, which, as you may recall, aren‘t being used to build Belmont. The BB Committee’s Steve Soboroff had questioned Miller‘s proposal to get the Army Corps of Engineers to build schools. So the real issue here may just be boardroom road rage.
Miller called the BB Committee’s reported 19.2 percent administrative cost on the bond money distributed since 1997 far too high. He even proposed that auditor Mullinax vet the volunteer committee. It gets complicated after that. Let‘s just say that Soboroff denounced Miller’s math. Then Miller accused Soboroff of running for mayor, which is actually true.
The Daily News seemed to take Miller‘s part here. Its reporter cited “an informed source in the construction industry” as saying the oversight ought to have cost 2 percent.
But an equally informed and anonymous source in the nonprofit arena tells me that when public money builds a project, the controls are more elaborate: Hence normal oversight cost might easily have exceeded 14 percent. That’s less than 19 percent, but not so much so that Miller couldn‘t have handled his query with a phone call instead of public outrage.
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