If only the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan would end with the same whimpers and face-saving statements as the war between the City Controller and City Attorney did on Wednesday.
Controller Wendy Greuel released her audit of how the City Attorney’s office handles its role in the vast number of Worker Compensation claims that cost taxpayers $129 million in 2008-09 and found the program was “plagued by poor oversight, a lack of budgetary accountability and had the potential for millions lost to the City each year” — $3 million to be precise.
Of course, the year she focused was when Rocky Delgadillo was still City Attorney, a fact she didn’t make clear in her press release although she does close her cover letter to the audit by mentioning that fact and adding snidely: “I hope this audit serves as a roadmap for the current City Attorney to reform the Workers’ Compensation program in his office.”
Greuel’s disappointment in the City Attorney’s office extended to that
fact it “took an average of 5.8 years to settle a case, which is nearly
500% longer than best practices” because the department “lacked basic
systems for monitoring workload, and has misplaced important historical
data on cases.?
Noting in her press release (ControllerWorkComp.rtf)
that the audit is part of “continuing her efforts to save taxpayer
money,” she pointed out the City Attorney has two fewer attorneys and
less senior attorneys assigned to Worker Comp cases than were authorized
in the budget.
For his part, City Attorney Carmen Trutanich
calls the audit a “collaborative effort” and boasts he “has already
initiated many of the recommendations, including the drafting of a
comprehensive Support Staff Manual, implementation of a peer review
process, detailed case closure reports, increased staffing and reduced
caseload per attorney, and a streamlined database system, as well as
proposed coordinated training with adjustors and supervisors in the City
“From day one, I have remained committed
to increasing transparency in City government by opening the offices of
City officials to both financial and performance audits by the City
Controller’s Office,” he said in his press release (CityAtty-WorkComp.rtf).
So what’s new in all this?
known all along that the Worker Comp program was screwed up like nearly
everything the city does and outmoded computer systems and vague lines
of responsibility between multiple agencies.
We did learn some
painful details: There are 4,000 open cases going back nearly six years
on average with a liability to taxpayers of $1.5 billion and LA only
refers 4 percent of claims for fraud investigation compared to 17 to 21
percent in other jurisdictions..
The tragi-comic background to
this story is it isn’t Greuel’s or Trutanich’s fight anymore than Iraq
is Obama’s. It started with their predecessors Laura Chick and
Delgadillo and led to a flurry of headlines, subpoenas, lawsuits and the
clumsy and useless intervention of the City Council.
They’ve both are gone just like Bush and Saddam but like Obama, they picked up where their predecessors left off.
But who’s to begrudge the lack of a gracious end to a petty squabble. Peace, at last O Lord, peace at last.
Greuel says the problem isn’t going away. It will take another audit to
determine how to actually fix what’s broken by creating a new system
that, you can be sure, will provide accountability.