But how about the hapless Fujioka, who had (so far as I know) nothing to do with the 2000 flop? And while we‘re at it, what is a city administrative officer anyway? Well, the CAO used to do the budget for the mayor, which was a big deal indeed. Hard to recall though it may be, under Bradley the CAO seemed as powerful as the mayor; his staff reports could then make or break an ordinance. Back then, the slender, double-breasted, owlishly eyeglassed figure of CAO Keith Comrie observed the City Council from the sidelines the way Cardinal Richelieu used to scope out Louis XIV’s court. Not even independent departments -- Airports, Ports, Water and Power -- were immune to his probings.
Comrie‘s star sank under Riordan, who was certain there was nothing he didn’t already know about allocating; Riordan assembled his own budget squad and let the lights go out in the vast CAO quarters. The city doesn‘t seem much worse for the budget switch. But, minus the critical work the CAO’s analysts used to perform, it‘s much harder for reporters and other interested parties to track city operations. Which probably doesn’t much bother the mayor.
Comrie kept himself busy on the new charter until it passed. After he departed last summer in his new, retirement Porsche, an alleged nationwide search for his successor detected Fujioka in L.A.‘s own Personnel Department.
By then, there was little left for the new CAO to do except follow Riordan’s orders to work toward changing the CAO‘s operation into the new charter’s so-called Office of Administrative and Research Services, on whose exact purpose few agree. Now that the mayor supposedly wants him out, some say it‘s because Fujioka dared to voice his own views on how best to restructure financial operations.
But Riordan can’t easily get rid of him, since the council can still reverse mayoral firings by eight votes -- which it probably would in this case. In fact, this council owes the mayor so few favors that it might retain Fujioka even after the July start-up of the new charter provisions (which require 10 council votes to save a manager from mayoral firing). This indeed would be a perfect opportunity for the council to prove that, with a greater sense of unity, it can still kick the mayor‘s butt. Even under the new rules -- which various councilpeople loudly predicted would make Riordan omnipotent.
Meanwhile, as the latest City Watch downtown newsletter puts it, ”It will be a tense five months for Mr. Fujioka.“