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Above the Law

L.A. Housing Authority Handed Out Over $500K in 'Performance' Bonuses in 2 Years

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Fri, Dec 30, 2011 at 7:15 AM

click to enlarge So we paid Ken Simmons an extra $25K per year for a "no comment"? - KCET
  • KCET
  • So we paid Ken Simmons an extra $25K per year for a "no comment"?
Update: "L.A. City Controller Wendy Greuel Finally Gets to Grit of Housing Authority Probe: Its Profitable 'Non-Profits'."

The rap sheet for taxpayer-money-hungry execs at the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles just keeps getting longer.

Over the last year, KCET reporters for "SoCal Connected" have ripped the blinds off the HACLA executive offices. First, in spring, we found out that former CEO Rudy Montiel had been throwing around his city credit card on $400 lunches and the like -- the cherry atop a $450,000 salary. (He was fired when the scandal broke, and later handed $1.2 million by HACLA's Board of Commissioners so he wouldn't blow the whistle on them, too. Double sketch.) Then, this winter, KCET finally obtained documents showing Montiel's underlings had similarly spent hundreds of thousands on travel, meals and gifts. All the expenditures were approved by...

... Ken Simmons, who took over for Montiel when he left, and who has been leading HACLA ever since.

Like Montiel before him, Simmons stepped down from his post as CEO this month, under immense pressure from city politicians (namely, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa) who needed to make a move that would give the illusion they were super shocked at HACLA's shadiness, and determined to make a change.

Now, Douglas Guthrie, the man appointed by the mayor to clean up HACLA once and for all, comes forward with documents that KCET has been trying to get a hold of since early November: A list of "performance" bonuses handed out in 2009 and 2010.

The bonuses total $527,755.

And guess who received almost $50,000 of that? Our old friend Ken Simmons, who has consistently claimed that all the extravagant spending was his former boss' idea -- and that he himself was all but powerless to stop the hemorrhaging. And though Simmons has stepped down as CEO, he's not necessarily gone yet. As KCET reported in mid-December:

Simmons told housing authority commissioners that he intends to return to his old post as No. 2, the chief operating officer, the same position in which he signed all the checks under the former CEO. His salary in that post was more than $300,000 in 2009. The decision on whether to allow him to remain in that role will rest with the new CEO, once commissioners have hired one.

Good to see the newly appointed Guthrie is bringing HACLA's full criminal history to light -- and indeed, that's exactly what the mayor put him there to do. The more corruption Guthrie exposes, the better everyone looks (besides Montiel and Simmons, of course).

But until Simmons, HACLA's greedy executive staff and the commissioners who've thus far avoided blame are given the swift boot, we shouldn't rest easy. It only takes one trace of virus for a culture of corruption to grow again.

Watch Simmons try to excuse himself from responsibility at a City Council meeting earlier this month (thanks much, RonKayeLA):

"I do not agree with the way we have used those resources."

Classic. Once again, he pretends like his hands were tied while Montiel forced him and his colleagues into lavish steak dinners and ridiculous gift baskets. Then he has the audacity to brush off HACLA's money grabs because they didn't come directly from federal coffers -- instead, they came from "our non-profits," whose revenues "are given to the Housing Authority to complete its mission." (This, while L.A.'s poorest residents can't even make rent. Like there's NO POSSIBLE WAY those revenues could have gone back where it was needed most.)

Simmons sure thinks highly of his agency's performance. And apparently thinks serving as a powerless second-in-command with his mouth taped shut is worth an extra five figures of public assets per year.

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

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