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City News

VIDEO: Hilda Garcia, City Employee in L.A. Mayor Villaraigosa's Gang Unit, Called Out for Letting Husband Use Taxpayer-Paid Vehicle

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Fri, Apr 29, 2011 at 3:05 PM

click to enlarge Mayor to city workers: Don't do anything I wouldn't do!
  • Mayor to city workers: Don't do anything I wouldn't do!
How much evidence does it take for the city of L.A. to realize it has a golf-ball-sized hole in the bottom of it's piggy bank?

Company cars are a fat waste of money. No more denying it. There have been two Los Angeles audits -- one in 2007, one in 2009 -- on costly city vehicles, wherein both Controller Laura Chick and Wendy Greuel found they were being overused, and weren't worth the millions, besides.

Enter CBS News' investigative team...

... famous for getting all up in the beeswax of scoundrels such as unlicensed plastic surgeon Ehab Mohamed and a Craigslist radiation-pill hawker known only as Aaron. Their latest target:

Hilda Garcia, who "works in the mayor's office as a program manager in the gang reduction unit," and her husband, Raul Gonzalez, who apparently hitches free rides to work in his wife's L.A.-owned vehicle. Tsk, tsk!

It's not the worst scenario -- they could have been cruising Figueroa for a good time, or riding in style to a city-paid awards show. (Oh wait.) But CBS will take what it can get, and the blatant nonchalance of one city worker points to a greater attitude of "eh, the people can pay" throughout the system, and failure to address the problem on an executive level.

Garcia's back-and-forth with the CBS reporter is pretty hilarious; she clearly knows what to say to avoid criminalizing herself. In short -- Did your husband use the car? Nope. But we, like, just saw him do it. Nope. Luckily, some good-old-fashioned spy-cam footage proves otherwise (note ironic "win a car" ad as opener):

We found in February that none of the executive office's 200 cars had been eliminated, despite Greuel's 2009 recommendation. They currently cost taxpayers about $1.3 million a year. (That's not including more urgently necessary city cars driven by cops and firemen.)

In addition, reports CBS, "last year the city spent $660,000 of your money on gas for its passenger cars." From the investigation:

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said he tried to cut some of the city fleet a few years ago but the council resisted. However, he defends the cars saying sometimes they might be cheaper than reimbursing employees for mileage.

"I agree these cars need to be used for an official purpose, they can't be misused," Villaraigosa said.

After we showed city officials what we uncovered, they said they would tighten safeguards to make sure city cars and gas are used for city business. Not personal use.

Yeah -- we've heard that one before.

[@simone_electra/swilson@laweekly.com]

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