Why Is the L.A. Times Obsessed With Mark Ridley-Thomas' Garage? | The Informer | Los Angeles | Los Angeles News and Events | LA Weekly

Why Is the L.A. Times Obsessed With Mark Ridley-Thomas' Garage?

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Thu, Feb 13, 2014 at 7:02 AM
  • The office of Mark Ridley-Thomas
In the last month, the Los Angeles Times has produced no less than six stories about taxpayer-funded security upgrades to the home of L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas.

The five county supervisors, who represent more constituents than some United States senators, run county government, including the Sheriff's Department, probation, child and family services, animal control and more. They're fair game for a newspaper looking to hold public officials accountable, no doubt.

But the Times seems absolutely obsessed with what amounts to $6,278.61 of your money spent on a security system for Ridley-Thomas' converted garage-office - even though such security work is allowed under county policy, and even though the reporter who first pursued the story, CBS L.A.'s David Goldstein, essentially passed on it:

County policy entitles the supes to taxpayer-funded security. That includes Sheriff's deputies who escort them to public events, and security systems installed at their homes. The south county's Ridley-Thomas and east county supervisor Gloria Molina represent the most crime-challenged districts in greater L.A., and the law requires the two officials to live in the communities from which they were elected.

The $6,278.61 spent on Ridley-Thomas' home is less than what the Times acknowledges was spent on similar security upgrades to the home of fellow supervisor Molina - $7,406.72 worth. 

But so far the paper has made only glancing references to Molina's taxpayer-funded improvements.

The paper requested and received a document listing the cost of Molina's residential security upgrades. However, unlike the documents and information it received about Ridley-Thomas' upgrades, the details regarding what, exactly, was done to Molina's home were redacted. And no stories have made that work their focus.

We reached out to Molina's office but did not hear back.

Interestingly, the Times originally reported on Jan. 15, in the first of six stories, including one on the front page, that Ridley-Thomas' home-garage improvements billed to the taxpayer cost "about $10,000" and included "drywall, an air conditioner, appliances and a security system."

Follow-up coverage included two versions of a double-byline story Jan. 16 about how the city was looking into whether Ridley-Thomas' garage had been converted into an office without proper permits.

In the paper's latest coverage, published yesterday, the Times now reports the District Attorney's office is "looking into whether thousands of dollars in taxpayer money was misspent" on the garage improvements.

But the biggest scoop in this latest piece isn't in the headline. In fact, it's what is missing from the story that's most interesting: The $10,000 figure. [See correction/update at the bottom of the story.]

In fact, as the Times often does, it appeared to backtrack on previous reporting to include a key bit of math. 

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