It's not too surprising that a city that sends its mayor on a $120,000 trip to Europe during a mega-millions budget crisis isn't too thrifty when it comes to things like its telephone lines. But City Controller Wendy Greuel's latest audit is an eye-opener nonetheless: Among other things it found several unexplained, virtually unsupervised calls to Canada, the Philippines and Mexico.

Greuel's report states that one out of four city phone lines goes unused but still racks up minimum service fees; that the city pays a rate of about $2.8 million dollars a year for those idle phones; and that there is virtually no city monitoring of long-distance and international calls.

The $2.8 million alone is almost enough to pay for a Michael Jackson party the city doesn't need. But wait, there's more: Even when unused lines are identified, the city's Information Technology Agency waits 60 days — as $264,000 in fees amass — to disconnect them. (That's more than enough to send our mayor to Europe … twice!).

“The City provides virtually no oversight on whether international calls made by city employees is justified,” Greuel writes in a letter to Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, the City Council, and City Attorney Carmen Trutanich. “Each international call is supposed to have a 'toll record' form with approval by department management to document the reason or justification of the call. Of the 41 calls sampled, 33 percent lacked any type of paperwork, and zero calls had received departmental approval.”

“Additionally,” she writes, “over a three-month period we found 48 unexplained calls to Canada, 33 calls to the Philippines and 20 calls to Mexico.”

Bueno? City leadership? Your constituents called: They want their wasted tax dollars back. Can you hear us now?

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