Did New Chief Cover Up Skimming Of Taxpayer Funds?

Presumptive Los Angeles police Chief Charlie Beck was once accused of attempting to cover up a taxpayer-fueled treasure chest of millions of dollars that was allegedly amassed at the Los Angeles Police Relief Association while he was president of the group.

The claim was leveled at him nearly 10 years ago when two employees with some oversight of the association's finances said they brought concerns that city funds, intended to help the group manage the health benefits of most of the city's officers, were being hoarded, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Beck denies the allegation and investigations have exonerated him. Still, former city attorney Rocky Delgadillo looked into the fund, which once ballooned to $20 million, and called it "illegal," and ex-city controller Laura Chick said the association's leadership "should be ashamed." The money was slated for officers' health benefits but the accusers said the association took in more than it spent and pocketed the difference.

The whistle blowers included association staffers Ramona Voge, who was fired after raising her concerns, and Irma Perez, who quit and later sued. Settlements resulting from the allegations were settled for $1.2 million, reports the Times.

Perez claimed that the association used two sets of books, one that it used when the city came knocking to see where its taxpayer dollars were going, and another that indicated the internal profits gained from hording city dollars intended for cops' health benefits. The account in question was called the "medical reserve fund."

Perez said that Beck told her not to make waves about the fund, that "we are not giving the city back the money, we are going to take care of the officers."

Given the former city attorney and controller's conclusions that the association did indeed mismanage some taxpayer dollars, and given the association's record of paying out more than a million dollars to make the finger-pointers go away, the episode doesn't bode well for the kind of reform-minded leadership that Beck says he's bringing to the top-cop job.

Beck says his own epiphany about becoming a true Los Angeles Police Department reformer in the mold of Chief William Bratton didn't come until 2002 and 2003, a few years after the association's finances came into question. Still, claims that he attempted to quash unease about profiting from the city paint a Charlie Beck who could have some of the contempt-laden, cowboy-cop DNA of the Daryl Gates era.

As the City Council prepares to rubber stamp Beck, the favorite son of Bratton and the mayor's nominee, as the next chief of the LAPD, we're hoping that the two women made these allegations out of the blue. We hope that Beck was right when he stated the claims are a "fabrication."

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