After years of criticizing the every move of Los Angeles County's five-member governing board, gadfly extraordinaire Eric Preven — known by county supervisors as the pesky mosquito who's never missed a meeting — finally gets his crowing and legitimizing moment this week with a juicy expose on the board's V.I.P. transportation habits.
A California Public Records Act request filed by Preven, and picked up by the Los Angeles Times' news blog last night, reportedly shows that…
… “the supervisors spent thousands of taxpayer dollars for chauffeurs and Lincoln Town Cars while traveling on county business.”
We've contacted Preven for the full extent of the supervisors' chauffeur schedule. But according to the Times, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas spent $2,069 and Supervisor Mike Antonovich spent $1,733 on taxpayer-funded private drivers during their four-day trip to Washington, D.C. in June.
As usual, they were in the U.S. Capitol to beg for some more L.A. subway funds — ironic, considering they're apparently too ninny/self-important to take the subway themselves.
Antonovich was recently appointed chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, a wealthy county department that has recently been hacking away at bus service — and certainly not offering private chauffeurs — for the county's lowest-income residents, the ones who need public transportation the most.
And the chauffeuring wasn't a one-time summer indulgence, reports the Times.
A month prior in May, while the supes were in Washington, D.C., to clear up how, exactly, Obamacare would affect county health operations (and more subway politicking, of course), Supervisor Don Knabe reportedly joined Antonovich and Ridley-Thomas in dropping major taxpayer dime on private cars to whisk them around the Capitol. (Again, we've contacted Preven for exact figures.)
The supes are pushing all press inquiries onto Assistant Chief Executive Ryan Alsop, who's out of his office at the moment. But Alsop argued to the Times last night that given all the back-to-back meetings and rainy weather during their recent trips to D.C., the supervisors were just taking the necessary steps to ensure they kept their tight schedule.
“You don't want to be late for a meeting with some of the important lawmakers they have to see,” said Alsop.
The only one who didn't call a chauffeur, reports the Times, was Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, “who relied on cabs, the Metro subway and walking.” (Go Zev! But the hero of Preven's records request is an unlikely one, seeing as Supervisor Yaroslavsky has exhibited more rage than any of his colleagues toward the county's No. 1 gadfly. “Somehow you think you own this place,” he growled at a recent meeting.)
This behavior is nothing new. The Times revealed in 2010 that each county supervisor receives an annual allowance of $3.4 million to spend on office luxuries and pet projects. For example, Yaroslavsky had dropped over $200,000 on his super-spiffy new website and social-media accounts, and Knabe was paying an “armed driver” $90,000 a year to escort him to and from county functions.
Stay classy, supes! But not that classy.