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L.A. Housing Authority Audit Shows Lavish Travel, Meals, Gifts -- City Controller Wendy Greuel Plays Catch-Up With KCET

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Tue, Dec 13, 2011 at 3:15 PM

click to enlarge The Greuelinator.
  • The Greuelinator.
Flanked by L.A. City Councilmen Dennis Zine and Tony Cardenas at a press conference this morning, City Controller (and mayoral candidate!) Wendy Greuel "revealed" years of unchecked spending by Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles executives and staffers.

Hundreds of thousands in travel costs! Thousands more for swanky company meals! Real juicy, infuriating stuff.

So why haven't the majority of outlets invited to this morning's City Hall media event covered Greuel's 32-page ravaging of HACLA?

Probably because she's late to the party. It's been almost a year since local station KCET first revealed rampant credit-card misuse by former HACLA CEO Rudy Montiel. And it's been almost two weeks since KCET dropped the second half of its two-part HACLA investigation on similar overspending by his underlings, again scooping the vast majority of Greuel's work.

Sure, she's faced an uphill battle. As KCET's investigative team has pointed out -- and as Greuel has been quick to echo -- obtaining public-record documents from HACLA was like pulling teeth.

click to enlarge We nominate KCET reporter Laurel Erickson for City Controller.
  • We nominate KCET reporter Laurel Erickson for City Controller.
"We had a very difficult time getting records," KCET producer Karen Foshay told us earlier this month. "It was a blood-sweat kind of year. For example, one day we were allowed to go in, then were told the official copy person was not there today. ... That's a story in itself. You have someone who only makes copies?"

Greuel's talking head was all over the station's SoCal Connected segment, tsk-tsking officials for this secretive behavior.

But taxpayers fund the City Controller's Office, too. And isn't Greuel's official purpose to make sure no department gets away with this kind of hoarding? It's a little pathetic for her to equate her powerlessness with that of a brushed-off L.A. reporter -- when in the end, it's the City Controller's job to duck under the media tape and kick some executive ass.

Greuel is equally quick to blame L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's office for allowing this culture of corruption to blossom at HACLA, and for allowing its Board of Commissioners to quietly pay Montiel $1.2 million after he was fired. (A "golden parachute" of sorts, apparently to keep the ex-CEO from blowing the whistle on commissioners' own spending habits.)

Via City News Service this a.m.:

"The mayor's office appoints the commissioners and has oversight over those commissioners and clearly they needed to be minding the store better,'' Greuel said. "This was an agency that felt no one was watching.''

Yup. Including the woman we explicitly pay to watch it. Yet it was only under the pressure of KCET's investigation that Montiel's successor, Ken Simmons, likewise became a former CEO last week.

OK, we're done complaining. Greuel's new audit is a super thorough one: It lists all the scandalous details on unnecessary flights, double-dipped expense reports, feigned internal investigations, etcetera. And, perhaps most importantly, it proposes a more rigid system of accountability for HACLA in the future, to make sure none of these shenanigans ever fly under the city's radar again.

Thanks for that, Greuel. But the majority of the props still go to KCET, without whose dogged persistence the City Controller may never have felt obligated to play catch-up.

[@simone_electra / swilson@laweekly.com / @LAWeeklyNews]

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