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
If the Office of City Controller doesn't know the funding sources, costs and duties of these public positions, who does?
City Council President Garcetti, who will lead the council's two-week debate to approve the budget, is still smarting over criticism that a year ago he agreed to close the 73 libraries on Sundays and Mondays rather than look more deeply into hidden spending. Yet Garcetti did not even sound curious about how Villaraigosa's office staff is paid for. He referred the Weekly to the City Controller.
The man most in the know is City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana, chief financial adviser for Villaraigosa and the City Council. Bartels referred the Weekly to Santana — but Santana provided only a few pieces of information via email. He said he was too busy to discuss exactly who pays for all those mayoral staffers.
After the mayor claimed in his formal budget that this year he employs only 94 people, his own office in April handed the Weekly his real salary list: It showed 172 employees' salaries, not 94, with obscure, bureaucratic titles — for example, "Mayoral Aide V."
The funding sources cited by the mayor for paying his staffers conflict with the funding-source information provided by the City Controller's Office.
Don't the mayor and City Controller know, and agree on, exactly where the money is coming from and what it's for?
The April salary list provided by the mayor's aides states that 51 staffers are funded by the unspecified "grants," with the rest coming mostly from the General Fund. The City Controller's office, by contrast, says 34 jobs are funded by these grants.
Critics are calling for a higher level of fiscal competence from Los Angeles City Hall, saying such discrepancies should not be a mystery to city officials. But when Villaraigosa's spokeswoman, Sarah Hamilton, was asked to shed light on the clashing facts and figures cited by city officials who were trying to explain the Mayor's Office budget, she forced the Weekly to file a formal California Public Records Act request.
Those new documents, handed to the Weekly in May, show Villaragosa's staff at 196, including seven interns, 16 borrowed city employees and 173 core staff. The list reveals a surprising fact that the Controller's Office did not have in hand: Nearly one-fifth of the mayor's core staff — 31 people — is a homeland security team, 25 of whom are funded by federal agencies. Just four of Villaraigosa's staff are assigned to "education" or "education/policy," the mayor's signature reform issue. Eleven of his employees are funded by foundations or grants to work in such areas as "strategic partnerships" and "energy and environment."
Only three of Villaraigosa's aides specifically work on city budget and finance issues. Nine employees work in his press office, three on "new media."
The mayor's huge homeland security team — identified as 31 accountants, grant writers and other desk workers — is rarely mentioned by the media. Nor are the 16 staffers on loan from the Housing, Harbor, Sanitation, Building and Safety, Water and Power, Police, Personnel, Fire, Airport and Community Development departments. The Mayor's Office uses them for free, and the departments pay. He also has seven interns who earn $15 an hour — five of them paid by federal grants.
Understanding the Mayor's Office budget is clearly not an easy task. The byzantine layers involved in getting at these true costs allow for inconsistencies and confusion among the top offices in City Hall. The same holds true for the larger, city-wide budget that in a few days will be debated by an often poorly informed City Council.
And that makes it impossible for members of the L.A. public, who are footing the bill, to ask intelligent questions or to act as fiscal watchdogs.
One of the most outspoken critics of City Hall fiscal practices, Jack Humphreville of the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council, says there are palpable, negative costs to the mayor's and council's confusion and lack of transparency: Humphreville, who like Stephen Box blogs about city fiscal policy at CityWatchLA, says: "They are supposed to put $300 million a year [to maintain roads] and there's [$50 million] if they're lucky. They don't even budget for it. ... If this happened in corporate America, people would be put behind bars."
In a May 1 Los Angeles Daily News exposé, reporter Kerry Cavanaugh unveiled a largely secret system of vast, automatically granted city-employee bonuses now spiraling out of control. Amidst service cuts to city residents and city infrastructure, $150 million in annual bonus pay — none of it based on merit — is handed to thousands of workers.
One closed-door effort to renegotiate these automatic bonuses with city unions was abandoned by the Villaraigosa administration in 2007. Meanwhile, the automatic bonus amounts have skyrocketed 400 percent in the past decade.
The $150 million hit to city coffers due to these bonuses is not mentioned in the budget the City Council will debate. The only nod to the bonuses' existence is a paragraph on page 33 that broadly alludes to ways to begin reducing the payments, ranging from "change all bonuses to flat-rate amounts" to "defer or eliminate unnecessary bonuses."
In her front-page scoop, Cavanaugh described the bonuses as a "stealth expense" that few City Hall officials know about.
you wanted a hispanic mayor regardlessit made you feel goodanother barrier brokennow own it and live with it
The thing that really jumped out... "Villaraigosa was thousands of miles away visiting Chicago and Washington, D.C., during most of the hearings." Like George Bush (vacationing in Crawford during much of his presidency), our mayor seems more interested in pursuing his interests than the interests of his constituents in Los Angeles.
Mr. McDonald,I am a retired City employee (sworn) and had the opportunity to review your article. I just wanted to say that in my 33-years as a City employee I have never read a newspaper article that was "right on" regarding the budgetary deception that goes on in City Council and the Mayor's Office. Without question, this Mayor has set a new record in citizen and budget deception. Thank you for the overdue exposure of corruption and betrayal of public trust. Rick
So Patrick Range MacDonald is having a hissy fit because city employees are getting health insurance. So, it's time for the question. Who provides a greater benefit to L A, Patrick Range Macdonald or a garbage collector? Los Angeles can get along very well without L A Weekly. How long would LA survive without trash collectors? So, don't garbage collectors deserve a decent salary and decent fringe benefits Lest we forget Martin Luther King died in Memphis because he was helping striking garbage collectors get collective bargaining. So before we cancel health care benefits for city employees, let's remember Martin Luther King.
Yes, insurance companies are robbing Angelenos blind. But let's not attack public employees for that. Let's go after insurance companies. A number of years ago Sheila Kuehl proposed a single payer health care system. UTLA conducted a study of Kuehl's proposal and concluded that LAUSD would save millions of dollars each year if California adopted a single payer system. UTLA went on record supporting a single payer system. This is an example of a unions supporting health care not only for themselves but for everyone else. That's a contrast to a lot of parents who send their children to charter and private schools as well as the educational reformers that infest LAUSD. They all want fringe benefits for themselves - but for teachers, or custodians - That's another story.
So if Patrick Range MacDonald is really upset about the health care benefits city employees enjoy, why doesn't he man up, at attack insurance companies, and not nurses' aides at L A County Hospital? That would show courage that LA Weekly no longer has.
P.s. As far as "investigative journalism", L A Weeky can't even get its facts right about Mozart's birth place, which was Salzburg - NOT Vienna, as L A Weekly would have us believe. With that in mid, how can we trust the facts presented by Patrick Range Macdonald??????
The article is not complaining about city workers getting benefits, it is about the hidden budget costs that are not being related truthfully. It is a complaint about what sounds like a corrupt mayor and his administration.
You're missing the point, which is good it's too difficult to get clear information about how people tax money is being spent. How do we hold people accountable if we don't know what's going on?
This kind of obfuscation as an obvious motive: the mayor and his cronies don't WANT to be held accountable. If they didn't feel guilty about what they are doing, they would uphold transparency in government.
LA Weekly, thank you for writing the article. We need more investigative pieces like this.
If financially competent persons do not run for city office, then perhaps we should break up the city into smaller cities. Disincorporate the entire city like they are proposing to do to Vernon. The corruption in LA city is far worse than Vernon.
According to L A Weekly, namely Mary Beth Crain, Mozart was born in Vienna. However, that's not true. Mozart was born in Salzburg.You can even visit his birth place. If we can't trust LA Weekly with something that every one who's seen Amadeus know, how can we trust L A Weekly with its stats on the amount of money LA spends on health insurace for its employees. I should remind Patrick Range Macdonald, that policemen and firemen risk their lives to protect him from danger. Don't they deserve health insurance? And how many Angelenos get health insurance through their employer? Shouldn't public employees have the same right? I do realize that many employers, like WalMart, don't provide their employees with decent health insurance coverage. However, rather than attacking policemen and firefighters, why not demand that WalMart permit its employees to form unions?Certainly Sam Walton can afford to pay his hired help decent wages and decent health care.Perhaps this is also a good reason for immigration reform - so that the uninsured undocumented immigrants who do the domestic work for the snotty mansion owners on the West side can get medical care. I know L A's unionized work force would agree.
Villaraigosa is going to be upset about this article! No one called him about it so he could pose for a picture!
Mayor Villaraigosa is a labor genius. He is firing 100 Travelers Aid volunteers at LAX on June 30th because it is too expensive to have volunteer labor at LAX.
Mayor Villaraigosa is a labor genius. He is firing 100 Travelers Aid volunteers at LAX on June 30th because it is too expensive to have volunteer labor at LAX.
Next question: remembering that Marisela Villar "worked" for Fabian Nunez, I would wonder how many of the people who "work" for Villaraigosa are family members of politicians. How many members of the mayor's staff are patronage appointees, and how many hold real jobs?
Great reporting -- much more important than the scandal in Bell, because this is routine, ongoing, and more expensive. I'd love to see you expand this kind of analysis to other cities in Los Angeles County, and to the massive county government.
Very nicely done.
if you get rid of the illegal aliens out there in California, you might get a balanced budget in a couple years. As long as you keep the illegal aliens, you NEVER balance a budget unless you double all the taxes. Think about it.
Terrific article. Keep digging and reporting and, just maybe, the dunderheaded voters will vote these criminals out of office. I moved out of LA the minute Villaraigosa was re-elected for a second term.
My once beloved LOS ANGELES one of the most beautiful cities on earth is now A MEXICAN CITY!Roadside vendors, pinatas, taco trucks, fish frying on stolen Supermarket carts, gang-banging, grafitti and Mexican flags are now the norm. WEEEEE! Isn't Mexico fun?
Deport all the illegals and take Mayor Villa Pendejo with them!
Wait, when hasn't there been such great diverse culture? Seriously. Relax and remember on whose original land you're standing on.
Don't be an idiot. No one cares about comments like this. You people infect every comment board and you appeal to no one but yourselves.
whats a matter? cant handle the truth. or you like LA looking like mexico. cause i agree. its a joke. i used to love LA. not anymore. only mexicans and rich people love LA.
We are in the United States and we have FREEDOM of SPEECH here!What bothers you is that I am waking up the American people!If you don't like what I say don't read my posts. But you will not shut me up Mexican!
Don't you hate that?
I care about his comment, you idiot. Are you illegal alien supporter? Apparently Mehican jackass population has been destroying once called USA, now no different from Mehico.
You people? I suppose in your house the word "Mexican" is considered a swear word or racial slur. Another California cameltoe.
I can save the City an easy $500,000. EASY. Stop giving Channel 36 over a half million dollars a year. There is no need for the City to fund two television channels. It already spends over 3 million dollars a year operating the channel it owns (Channel 35). What is the justification for giving Channel 36 money? It has no control over it. It just hand them a gift of over a half million dollars a year. Don't take my word for it. Go to the Mayors budget and look under the ITA department and then Citywide Access Corporation. Two Mayors have tried to eliminate it but it always sneaks back in during the final weeks of budget negotiations.
Villaraigosa is a former City Councilman. These dogs protect their own. The corruption so deeply permeates our city government that it may never be completely eradicated, even as we spiral into greater debt. Villaraigosa makes much more money than he deserves, yet he seeks other folks' money to pay the fines with which he was recently hit for believing that he had a royal pass to all events in Los Angeles. He has access to enough slush funds that he can probably go on attending Oscars, Grammys, Laker games, Dodger games, pretty much whatever he wants and not a dime of his own salary will be spent on the tickets. He will leave office with a dandy pension (probably on top of whatever he gets for being the former Speaker of the State Assembly).
I would really like to say I'm proud to live in the second largest city in the country. But I live in a sewer, run by a bunch of filthy, slimy, corrupt democrats.
I am not proud to live in Los Angeles.
Because no media source has exposed the details of corruption within the system like the Weekly is now doing!
People should stop complaining about the corruption and incompetence. Angelenos re-elected every jerk that was running for office.
When voters re-elect councilmen who only cater to the millionaires and billionaires real estate developers, they have no business complaining about corruption and incompetence. The voters could have elected Stephen Box, but the LA Times nixed Box as he knew too much. And the voters fell for it -- LA Times said Box was a candidate knew all the "minutiae." Thus, we are stuck with jerks who are so lame that they don't even know that they know nothing about City Hall finances.
As long as they can give $52 Million to Billionaire Eli Broad, they' happy.
Villaraigosa has been a slime ball from day one. Is anyone shocked by this? He a typical politician - if his lips are moving, he's lying....
How about giving 100,000 a year Garbage Collectors the furlough time instead of Police and Firemen ????
So you're okay with your trash as well as your neighbors trash piling up in your front yard and in the streets for weeks at a time? If a Trash truck driver is making 100k a year that means he is working a lot of O.T., which means they are really understaffed. Besides, Sanitation generates their own monies and has nothing to do with Police and Fire.
It means we don't need him or her. The was a time when we could burn trashin our backyard incinerator. Before that people recycled their trash or tookit to the dump themselves. During WW2 we recycled everything. My householdchore was to put th grease can out on the parking curb to recycle the bacongrease into soap. I was 4 to 5 years old. If you live in the LA area it nowtakes 15 to 20 minutes to respond to a 911 call. Do you want it to go to 30minutes or more?? if you do I suggest you buy yourself a gun. 357 mag willdo.
100k is basically starting pay for police and fire along with full pensions at 20 years. maybe you should dispose of your own trash then let me hear you talk about furloughs
Grotesque and so obviously WRONG; these MULTI MILLIONAIRE "public servants" will NEVER stop, never be pried from the teat without the force of LAW.In the private sector they would be making little rocks from big ones in the hoosegow. THE PEOPLE KNOW and are righteously angered. EVERY Federal/State/City employee cannot be a MULTI-MILLION dollar worker - THIS MUST STOP.Somebody has to say the emperor has no clothes and charge these obfuscations with the criminal intent these people represent.Cripes.
Can you please name at least one (1) "Federal/State/City employee" who makes a million dollars a year and who is a "MULTI-MILLION dollar worker". I'm not talking about politicians who has their own personal/outside money, but some one who actually makes MULTI-MILLIONS of dollars working a civil service job.
Why is there not a criminal investigation into this? The city of Bell was just the tip of the iceberg. Every single one of these people from the Mayor of Los Angeles on down needs to be in jail. It's corruption on a massive scale.
Villaraigosa and his cronies are nothing but a bunch of greasy haired mobsters. Is anyone surprised by any of this?
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