Go to New York on the taxpayers' dime, go to jail? Maybe.
Four current and former Irwindale city officials were charged with misappropriation of public funds, embezzlement and conflict of interest, the L.A. County District Attorney's office announced this afternoon. What's strange about this case to us is …
… this seems like something many area city officials have done.
In fact, prosecutors say this case is a refiling of an earlier one after a state appeals court in spring dismissed a grand jury indictment alleging much of the same.
Seems to us that some L.A. city leaders have traveled on the people's tab too.
Witness this $30,000-a-day trip by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa to Asia in 2011. Even if expenses were covered by private donors, it would appear taxpayers footed some of the costs, given the security and entourage needs of a such a big-city official.
In this case the D.A.'s office says Irwindale councilmen Mark Breceda and Manuel Garcia, former Councilwoman Rosemary Ramirez, and retired finance director Abe De Dios took “lavish” trips to New York in early and mid-'00s.
According prosecutors' statement:
Between 2001 and 2005, the four traveled to New York for up to six days at a time allegedly in an effort to get a higher bond rating for the city. However, prosecutors allege that during each trip, the officials spent thousands of dollars to attend hit Broadway shows and sporting events that had nothing to do with city business.
In 2005, the four took two trips to New York that cost taxpayers a total of $66,000. While there, the four stayed at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel on Central Park and purchased tickets to the musicals “Wicked” and “Mamma Mia.” They rang up $12,000 in limousine services during both visits and took in Yankees and Mets games.
Like we said, shocking behavior on the part of city officials, if true. The exact charges, according to the D.A.'s office, include:
Five counts each of isappropriation of public funds, embezzlement and conflict of interest for Breceda, 53, and De Dios, 68.
Ramirez, 52, faces two counts each of misappropriation of public funds, embezzlement and conflict of interest. Garcia, 34, was hit with one count each of misappropriation of public funds, embezzlement and conflict of interest.
They're all expected in court Sept. 11.