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Bruno, the LA Watchdog: Fetch the Bouncing Checks



Before I was rescued from the bushes outside Ron Kaye’s house and adopted by his wonderful wife Deborah, I was what you might call a “street dog,” living paw-to-mouth out of the garbage cans of the San Fernando Valley.
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It wasn’t always that way.  For a while, I picked up some junkyard gigs and actually made a living.  I got a weekly salary and was once offered a sub-prime mortgage by Countrywide for a Reseda doghouse.

And I had a checking account, although it often was overdrawn. That didn’t prevent me from writing checks, however, and local supermarkets looking for their money were often chasing me. I was constantly being lectured about being more careful with my account.

Looks like our new City Controller Wendy Grruel needs the same lesson.

According to Rick Orlov of the Daily News, who is often referred to the “dean” of the City Hall reporters since he’s been covering the place since Sam Yorty was in high school, about $6 million in city checks dated July 24 that were sent to vendors were returned for insufficient funds.

They bounced like the ball Ron sometimes throws at me in the backyard.  Six million dollars! Doesn’t Wendy know how to balance a checkbook? I bet Nick Patsaouras never asked her that during the campaign.

But Wendy is a good politician and told Orlov  the problem stemmed from a “processing error’ by Wachovia Bank.

 A $6 million “processing error?”  Former Controller Laura Chick, who reportedly also did some junkyard gigs before running for office, had the executives of Fleishman Hillard drawn and quartered for mistakes like that.

But Wendy is, well, nicer. A lot nicer.

“We are looking at the whole situation to make sure it is an isolated incident and won’t happen again,” Wendy told Orlov. I bet she served tea and little cakes during the interview.

I bet those Wachovia executives are shaking in the expensive boots they bought with their last bonuses.

Wendy’s flack Ben Golombek added that the problem relates to the transition as Wells Fargo takes over Wachovia’s operations this year. Wells Fargo bought Wachovia for $15 billion. I bet that check didn’t bounce.

Golombek said the city and Wachovia are sending letters of apology to those who received the bad checks. I doubt they’ll be accepted in lieu of cash at Ralph’s.

I’m just a dog, but isn’t there anybody in the Controller’s Office in charge of keeping an eye on this stuff – especially if the city’s bank was recently bought by another bank?

Laura Chick would have run down to the nearest Wachovia branch as soon as she heard about the deal and counted the city’s money. She probably would have left with a free toaster, too.

Woof!




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14 Responses to Bruno, the LA Watchdog: Fetch the Bouncing Checks

  1. Dainty Dachshund says:

    If Wendy were tougher she’d have supported Chick’s brave stance exposing Nuch instead of backing down and saying “it’s between them.” Even though she’s said she shares Chick’s point of view exactly, just as Nuch swore he did to them both, and Wendy and Laura share the same lawyer who’s getting stiffed and now being called a “loser” and taxpayer drain.
    Instead, she’s letting Orlov falsely try to sweep the thing under the carpet prematurely just because Greuel has agreed to do the particular audit in immediate question, the one about Rocky’s workers comp. This does not resolve any of the underlying issues, of giving her the authority to audit Nuch’s books any time she wants down the road AND without the shadow audit team Nuch told Orlov he’d tail her with.
    Maybe Orlov being the “dean” by virtue of having been around since Yorty just means he’s gotten a little too lazy for the job, phoning it in.
    Much of the time he seems to get his “news” from places like THIS blog and MS and KJames rantings and his guests. Then OTHER sources, even the now-lazy and degenerated L A Times, pick up on HIM and so it goes. All the while he’s sitting on his duff and trying to please the rightwing regulars who comment on the Daily News blogs.
    (Usually stupidly — everything boils down to “illegal scum,” “corrupt Democrats,” “greasy Tony and his croonies,” “slime and cockroaches” vs. “patriotic real Americans,” and so on.) While wanting to send them all “back to Mexico” or to Boston or England (that “illegal-loving Ratton”) or somewhere else.
    Heck, I could phone in any number of articles from my easy chair too, just by mixing around these words and phrases in different combinations to please my readers and avoid the tomatoes, but it wouldn’t make for good “reporting.”

  2. KK says:

    I must be missing something.
    My bank considers me a good customer and would at least attempt to contact me before returning a check.
    I also have a creditline which covers me in the instance where I didn’t have enough money to cover a check.
    Does Wells Fargo/Wachovia not consider the City of Los Angeles a good customer? How did the city find out about this–when their suppliers brought it to their attention? Does the city not have a line of credit with their bank? If not, why not?

  3. Dainty Dachshund says:

    Reading my own earlier post, I realize that the part about Daily News regular commenters throwing in “send them home to mexico” or where-ever may have sounded like a snark at Bruno’s owner’s (was that the word?) earlier post.
    But it wasn’t — it just refers to the 99% of commenters who don’t even try to make logical arguments, just spout these same things until they make the “conversation” so ugly everyone tunes out. I actually think that a New York-style program helping to repatriate those disillusioned with America and longing for “the old country” can make sense. The vast majority are from south of the border of course, where they already have free healthcare and education, even if it isn’t the best; but as Americans know, basic drugs and clinics and procedures are much cheaper, and probably as safe with a few exceptions — scare tactics by the AMA and pharmaceutical companies not-withstanding.
    As someone who has to pay for private health insurance which gets pricier and pricier as I get older, no pensions, like many Americans I’ve been counting on MediCare someday to fall back on. But at this rate Obama’s healthcare program is further cutting into MediCare which already pays so low in Calif. few doctors even take it. So if it’s between me and my family and some illegal, guess who.
    As for the Wells Fargo “errors,” they should be fined $25.00 for each bounced check the same as ordinary customers — only penalties will teach them to be “more careful” in future.

  4. anonymous says:

    I’m a little confused about the city’s deficit problem.
    Aside from all the reasons why it’s in debt and why it will worsen, how is it that the Fed govt can be trillions/zillions of dollars in dept and still write checks while the City can’t when they’re a mere half million or so in debt?

  5. Anonymous says:

    7;30: The fed gov’t can print more money — for any other level of gov’t that’s called forgery. It used to be the Treasury had to have actual gold in the vault to back up the amount of money they print, and they had to destroy bills when they print new money to keep it steady – is that even still true? They can borrow from China and other countries — I don’t think L A or Sacto can.
    Beyond that, it’s exactly this impossible notion of owing money we don’t have to strangers and printing money on the fed level, vs. spending money we don’t have and watching our services disappear and checks bounce locally and at state level, that has people confused. Earlier generations never saw incompetence so bad that schools, parks and community colleges actually close and stop offering courses all summer, even as politically motivated programs like free lunches at schools otherwise closed all summer are kept going. The Janice Hahns and Alarcons and others still think they can raise taxes ad infinitum, as though there were still a large middle-class affluent base of sitting ducks. That’s the state and local equivalent of printing money.
    Then the Zines/ Smiths/ Parks allow the taxes to be raised like for tripled trash fees and phone tax S allegedly just for more cops and fire protection, but then lie and swipe it into the general fund and sell out to the PPL leadership anyway, which hates Bratton and the Mayor and can’t get anything done for the rank and file, so the rank and file have realized that the Republicans are worse than the Democrats they were tricked into turning on with their union dues. All they can think of is to attack AEG and other companies to try to embarrass or scare them into paying for budget shortfalls, but in the process giving L A an even worse rep as a place to do business than the Democrats — their attempts to grandstand at the expense of Democrats backfired on the whole city.
    The new CAO just hired noted that our problems are huge because L A city has most of the very poor people that live in the County, THAT’S why our problems are so much worse. PERIOD. Too many poor people for the others to pull up, so we’re all going down — while the city is being dragged down further and faster by a council which is in a tug of war between the stupidest people of the two furthest political extremes, with the biggest egos. Anyone trying to make sense and cut spending while raising minimum taxes like Arnold becomes the most unpopular, because he is left with no “base,” so he becomes an object lesson to the two extremes. Moderates who make the most sense are the most vilified.

  6. anonymous says:

    Thank you for the explanation 9 PM.
    Sadly, that makes sense.
    Regards-Anonymous @ 7:30 PM

  7. Anonymous says:

    Are you joking? Ron Kaye has a blog? Whats next 3 stoodges?
    Hey ron-no no no, everything is bad, evolution is bad, Los angeles is bad-except the utopia of the City of San fernando where folks like Bob Hertzberg and Keith Richmond ( actually not too bad) and Richard Katz, late seeen carrying water for mayor villar on the light rail MTA scam, and your favorite civic hero, Doug Dowie, can reign supreme.
    Ron, do people in Los Angeles actually believe your crap?
    Out of state Los Angeleno.

  8. Anonymous says:

    This is the most lame excuse I have ever heard. Banks have been purchasing each other for the last 15 years. I know, I have worked in the banking industry for 18 years and the bank I work for has changed hands 4 different times. SOP for these situations are the checks from the previous bank ARE HONORED FOR 6 MONTHS (MINIMUM) UP TO 1 YEAR BY THE NEW BANK. So what is the excuse now Gruel?

  9. kk says:

    Hey anonymous 9:04, from your professional experience, don’t banks normally call or contact a good customer before bouncing checks?
    Maybe I have just been really spoiled with City National Bank.

  10. Banking Betty says:

    KK,
    Most banks call their customers (especially VIP clients which I assume the City of L.A. is) BEFORE they return checks for NSF. It is also common courtesy to pay a certain number of checks presented for payment up to a certain limit, providing the customer has the “credit line” or “deposits funds the same day” to extend this courtesy. There is something terribly wrong with this whole situation. Last time I saw this type of situation whereby checks were returned without a courtesy call is with chronically deficient accounts (translation = is it possible the City of L.A. consistently bounces checks and pays numerous service charges totaling big bucks?). I don’t know what the sitch is with L.A.’s accounts, but something smells fishy in Denmark. When was the last time the City Controller’s Office was audited and by whom?
    Banking Betty

  11. anonymous says:

    Did Wachovia or Wells Fargo issue a public statement on this matter? If not, why?
    Hmmm…

  12. Anonymous says:

    Did the LA Times even cover this story? I know they just L-O-V-E Wendy, but it seems like news to me, even if she is its BFF.

  13. Banking Betty says:

    All banks can be called to inquire if a check is good (AKA, funds are in the account to cover the amount of the check). To my knowledge, there is no such “new law” that does not allow the payee of a check to call the bank it is drawn on to verify if funds are available to pay it. Sounds very suspicious. If you were issued a check by the City of LA and this check bounces, I would contact the Regional Manager of that branch office to file a complaint. Also ask them for the direct number and address of the Bank Auditors so you can file a complaint. Make sure you have the name of the banking employee that told you they couldn’t verify the check because of some new “privacy law”. A check is a contract to pay a certain dollar amount. Issuing a check without sufficient funds can be prosecuted through the District Attorneys office and the payer can be liable for up to 3 times the amount of the check. Check it out.

  14. Banking Betty says:

    All banks can be called to inquire if a check is good (AKA, funds are in the account to cover the amount of the check). To my knowledge, there is no such “new law” that does not allow the payee of a check to call the bank it is drawn on to verify if funds are available to pay it. Sounds very suspicious. If you were issued a check by the City of LA and this check bounces, I would contact the Regional Manager of that branch office to file a complaint. Also ask them for the direct number and address of the Bank Auditors so you can file a complaint. Make sure you have the name of the banking employee that told you they couldn’t verify the check because of some new “privacy law”. A check is a contract to pay a certain dollar amount. Issuing a check without sufficient funds can be prosecuted through the District Attorneys office and the payer can be liable for up to 3 times the amount of the check. Check it out.

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