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Wanted: A Thousand Citizen Watchdogs

The mayor’s only claim to fame is the sharp reduction in gang crime that has occurred under his watch, an achievement attained by ceding the turf of the city’s poorest areas, throwing tens of millions of dollars at the problem and giving jobs to ex-hoodlums that could have gone to the half million unemployed and underemployed law-abiding people.
It would prove far more costly and difficult to achieve the same result with regards to official corruption in the city, county, schools, MTA and other political institutions.
There would have to be an honest cop in every office and back room, bugs monitoring every email, phone call and conversation and GPS on every car of the thousands of “players” who make up the incestuous system of politicians, political operatives, lobbyists, consultants, contractors and developers.
The system’s answer when its nefarious dealings are under suspicion is to appoint citizen watchdogs that come from the same vested interests or an inspector general when thoroughly exposed.
It started in the 1990s when the MTA’s corruption on rail construction projects was revealed in great part by gadfly John Walsh’s efforts.
The inspector general’s office was created and succeeded in quelling the flames of public anger by making sure the appearance of corruption was cleaned up without actually delving into what was going on behind the scenes.
The money kept flowing from special interests into political campaign coffers with healthy “commissions” being taken along the way by the operatives who arrange the deals.
After passage of Measure BB, the first in a series of school construction bond issues now totaling more than $20 billion, LAUSD ran into the same problems, the answer was to appoint an ex-FBI agent, Don Mullinax, as inspector general.
For a year or so, he had free reign but once the public concerns subsided, he started running into interference and eventually quit in disgust at being thwarted at every turn.

Thumbnail image for marezhot.jpg

Today, with the heat on the DWP, the mayor and City Council are working out the final terms for a Rate Payer Advocate to protect the public from the scandalous abuses that have gone on for so long.marezhot.jpg
It’s a tricky game but you can be sure that what is approved next week for the March 2011 ballot will do more to create the appearance of reform than actually protect the public’s money and make sure it is spent for the public’s benefit.
Yet another institution subject to reports of misspending the $6 billion in public taxes for construction and rumors of far worse misdeeds — the LA Community College District — has just resorted to the fig leaf of creating an inspector general to restore the appearance of order.
Earlier this month, LACCD named Christine Marez to be its newly-created inspector general with a $705,000 a year five-year contract for her newly-created firm
This sparked a lot of controversy for Marez, a 46-year-old single mother who was given to posting her business activities on Facebook and her dating activities like pole dancing at the Playboy Mansion on My Space where she described herself as “The Hotness” — a view of Marez that was captured at HollywoodHighlands.org.
Obviously embarrassed by the lurid display, Marez’s My Space page now says, “Oops, we couldn’t locate the page you are looking for.”
She’s a curiously interesting choice for inspector general given her background. She is a Cal State L.A. and USC-trained electrical engineer who says on her Linked In site that her experience includes 10 years as a “senior construction manager” at the DWP, eight years with an engineering company with the last three as a consultant on LAUSD’s construction program.

For the past four years, she lists herself as “Director of Policies” on construction, formally known as the Director of the Office of Construction Management Standards.

In June, she says she formed Policy Masters Inc. and is its president and CEO. Her Facebook page, now only available to friends, tells a somewhat different story starting with a New Year’s resolution to “double my income” in 2010. 

By mid-January, she was telling friends she had started Policy Masters and by May 12, she posted this:”I am looking for an auditing firm to partner on a Proposal due this Thursday. Creating this to happen by noon today. Worth 4300k a year…”

On May 19, she posted this: “My new firm is at the top of the list for an amazing contract!! Asking for your love and support…tomorrow at 2 p.m. they choose us unanimously!”

Apparently successful in winning that contract, she went after the college inspector general contract in August and was awared it on Oct. 6 by the LACCD board.

“By employing an inspector general who reports directly to us, the Board will be improving our oversight of the District’s bond program and hopefully will be increasing efficiencies over the remaining years of the construction projects,” said Georgia L. Mercer, president of the Board of Trustees.

Maybe, but a lot of the problems in the LAUSD construction program involved the use of consultants and the lack of policies and standards, according to a Feb. 24, 2009 audit by then Inspector General Jerry Thornton.

In 2006-07, shortly after Marez went from being a consultant to an LAUSD employee, he found there were 1,277 contractors in the Facilities Division earning $186 million — 1.7 times the cost of full-time employees. 

He noted the lines of authority between staff and consultants were “blurry,” causing a “lack of accountability” and hiring other consultants from their own firms as well as signing their time sheets.

Fourteen months later, an LAUSD consultant was indicted for allegedly funneling business from the construction program to a  business he co-owned and Superintendent Ramon Cortines asked LA City Controller to conduct an audit for other possible conflicts of interests.

fOn Wednesday, Greuel released her audit which some might call a whitewash or at the least a burying of a decade of mismanagement and giving a clean bill of health to the district — and presumably Marez, who shared responsibility for the policies and standards of the construction program.

“While we found some potential conflicts of interest during an earlier era at the district, it appears that the LAUSD under its current leadership has made significant progress in reforming the process for awarding construction projects,” said City Controller Greuel. ”The district still has room for improvement, but they appear to be on the right path.” 

It’s part of the lore of L.A. that it’s not what you know but who you know.

Nowhere is that truer even in Hollywood than in the political arena.

It’s a small world that connects every government institution from the judiciary to the elected officials and all the players circling ar
ound the system with their hands out for some of the tens of billions of dollars in public money.

Cleaning it up and restoring honesty and credibility is a monumental task and it can’t be done with Rate Payer Advocates under the system’s control our outside consultants  hired as inspector generals reporting to the same people responsible for the problems.

It’s going to take citizen watchdogs tearing into every agency and bringing to light the information that exposes wrongdoing and it’s going to take some of our elected officials finding the courage to stand up to the system that is failing the people.


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15 Responses to Wanted: A Thousand Citizen Watchdogs

  1. Anonymous says:

    Mayors Accomplishments.
    Passage of Measure R which will generate 30-40B for mass transit.
    His pressure on LAUSD has allowed Charters to flourish.
    DWP-Renewable energy on track for 20% by end of 2011.
    10,000 Cops on the streets.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Penision out of control
    No accountablity-Interal Control Violations
    Ticketgate
    First Admendment Right Violator
    Friends of Mayor get special treatment
    Appointments bad for the city

  3. Anonymous says:

    The Mayor would have been in jail if not for a DA who has sat on his butt all these years. Despite reports about corruption in the city of Bell, he did nothing till it came time for elections. Suddenly, there is corruption being found in a lot of places; Irwindale, Rancho Cucomanga and Vernon. Expect him to be an ineffective AG if elected. No news on Ticketgate or on Alarcon yet.

  4. Anonymous says:

    The mayor’s only claim to fame is the sharp reduction in gang crime? what about planting a million trees with every person in the street tree division either laid off or transferred to the dwp

  5. Sandy Sand says:

    There’s only one way out of this corrupt mess: Throw out the “ins” in March and elect the “outs” to become the new “ins,” and hope they don’t get on the outs with us by being corrupted by the system.

  6. Anonymous says:

    If you read Sun Tzu “Art of War” you will see it is foolish to tout the mayor’s accomplishments when the mayor’s failures clearly out-weigh any accomplishments. The city has caved in and folded under his mentoring. SUCCESSFUL? (More posters?)

  7. Anonymous says:

    217, and we all know who your are, Mr. “Meet Me at iHop” – saying you re-did the wall paper and cleaned the carpet before you torched the building is no argument. No wonder you always lose.

  8. Anonymous says:

    2:17 Hey Matt Szabo WRONG. I find it odd after the years Antonio has been in office you can only site 4 things and they are lies.
    30/40B has been reported to be a huge waste of millions of dollars. Its a joke the Mayor’s Parntership Schools Parents do not support Antonio and hellooo he has one of the most overcrowded schools still that ranks 2nd in the nation Roosevelt. The media whore Mayor had to use the students involved in the bus accident to jump on board the following day. Parents were furious their kids were being used by this clown.
    The biggest and most outrageous lie is 10,000 COPS on the streets. WRONG!!! There might be maybe 9,800 sworn but they are NOT on the streets. Maybe on a good night LAPD has 1,500 cops to cover 4 million people. The Mayor voted twice NOT to hire more cops as a councilman. He lied about the trash fee hike to residents and the millions promised to be used for Public Safety now goes into the general fund. Because of the failure of city council managing the budget and cutting LAPD budget $75 million 90 LAPD officers instead of being on the streets going after gangsters will have to babysit criminals in the new jail. LAPD new recruits had salary slashed to only $45,000 ranking them 17th low of many police agencies. THAT IS WHAT THE FAILURE OF A MAYOR HAS DONE TO OUR CITY.

  9. Anonymous says:

    2:17 you must be one of the crooks and liars from city hall

  10. Anonymous says:

    2:17 is most likely one of the 200 staffers or one of the 30 pr handlers who do a horrible job spinning for the Mayor. Many NC’s have more accomplishments they can tout as success then the Mayor and their volunteers. How sad is that? It would be a great report for the NC’s to list their biggest accomplishments because of course their council member don’t want people to know that many of the NC”s actually do more then the politicians in their neighborhoods.

  11. Anonymous says:

    2 workers charged with defrauding DWP
    At least $3 million in goods were allegedly purchased at inflated prices through dummy corporations. A third man is also charged.
    And this my friends is the agency your city council members want to protect.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Go to http://www.hollywoodhighlands.org to know the truth about the Los Angeles Community College District’s new watchdog.

  13. Anonymous says:

    It is clear that the millions or billions of tax payers’ dollars allocated from LA City, LA County, and State for gang prevention/interventions programs is a waste of money. The tax payers’ money will only assist gang members in furthering their organized crimes as has been previously mentioned by retired Sgt. Valdemar.
    Therefore, it appears Mayor Villaraigosa has FAILED again on crime/gang reduction. Angelenos need to view the Department of Justice Crime statistics showing crime is down everywhere in the U.S.A. without wasting tax payers money on gangs.
    Sgt. Richard Valdemar, retired from LA County Sheriff’s, has said, Don’t hire ex-gang members to run your anti-gang programs. Besides wasting your money, it’s like hiring Cheesh and Chong to teach your kids about the evils of marijuana.
    Department of Justice Crime Statistics
    http://www2.fbi.gov/ucr/cius2009/data/table_04.html

  14. Anonymous says:

    LOL. Too bad we have the worst tabloid media in LA otherwise they would really report the corruption going on in all the Mayor’s Gang Programs. Even the gangsters laugh at the money they get and can continue banging. How many have been arrested? Too many to count but they keep giving them money. There are at least 2 of the programs that aren’t even in the city.

  15. Pingback: ‘The Hotness,’ the Community College Scandal and the Wendy Greuel Question: Is She Tough Enough to Lead LA? | Ron Kaye L.A.

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