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City Hall’s Culture of Corruption — How High Will the FBI Investigation Go?

Corruption is insidious, a viral infection that turns cancerous if ignored over time — and that’s what has happened to the city government of Los Angeles.

For decades, the city’s business and civic leadership has stood by with a wink and a nod and sometimes their active participation as developers, contractors, unions and other special interests bought the politicians with campaign cash and reaped fabulous profits on their investments in the form of sweetheart contracts, subsidies, tax breaks and other lucrative benefits.
Surely, no one was surprised when the little people emulated the behavior of the rich and powerful, people like building inspector Joel Dellon who got caught back in 1989 taking bribes and kickbacks worth at least $22,500.
What’s interesting is that Dellon got the same kid-glove treatment big shots have gotten — 11 felony counts of bribery, grand theft and tax evasion were reduced to two charges in a plea bargain with prosecutors. Case closed, no further investigation.
Yet, just seven years later, the head of the Building and Safety Commission, Scott Z. Adler, a lobbyist and major property developer, was forced to resign when he came under criminal investigation for a soliciting a teenage prostiture, impersonating a police officer and conflicts of interest in connection with his official position. 
The next day it was disclosed that investigations had been under way “for several years” of a network of building inspectors suspected of taking bribes to approve substandard projects, and that one inspector had been arrested three months earlier.
Two days after resigning, Adler’s partner in their Bel Air lobbying firm, attorney Mark Armbruster, himself named head of the Environmental Affairs Commission by Mayor Riordan, terminated their business relationship that had proven so lucrative with $325,000 in city lobbying fees the previous year as well as useful to city politicians with the $21,000 in contributions from them.
Adler got off with community service on the sex charge and the uproar over lobbyists running commissions died down with tepid reforms and there was little fallout over the bribery problems in Building and Safety.
It was business as usual at City Hall, 
Politicians continued to be brought for a penny on the dollar of favors they provided, especially to developers. Lobbyists like Armbruster today are raking in more money than ever. Building inspectors still are taking their piece of the action. 
But one thing is different this time. 
The FBI — not the LAPD, not the District Attorney — are on the case. A federal grand jury has been impaneled. Electronic surveillance is being used. The little guys at the bottom of the corrupt food chain are squealing.
We can only hope that somehow the Obama Justice Department will take this investigation as far as it leads, even it it leads to the top.
The word coming out of City Hall and out of law enforcement circles suggest it will be tough to close down this investigation with a few fall guys as the pay–to-play probe of the Hahn Administration was.
It’s not just Building and Safety that is under investigation. Planning, Transportation, Housing and possibly other departments also have been swept into the federal investigation.
Like corruption, investigations have a way of going viral. It’s the only way it can be stopped.
Make no mistake about it: Little people don’t steal unless they see the big shots stealing because those are the people they take their orders from.
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29 Responses to City Hall’s Culture of Corruption — How High Will the FBI Investigation Go?

  1. Anonymous says:

    I thought, I’d never live to see this day. We knew it would take the Feds to clean-up City Hall. Shame on our wannabe AG-DA. Our local enforcement officials are a disgrace who feed off the same developer contributions.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Dave Lara and case management are the biggest crooks in the Department. Instead of inspecting buildings and following the law the Department has its employees work FOR the ones who do illegal things FOR FREE. This is what being parnters instead of enforcement brings you. The Mayor and Bud has changed the Department from making and enforcing laws to being a partner to the build and always looking at what it will cost the developer to adhere to the code as opposed to putting fairness and public safety first. The rule is now do whatever the Mayor says that day or lose your job. Of course this was brought out and then used by Rirdon and other developers. Now that heads of the departments can be fired at will along with most of the high ranking staff what do you expect. The Mayor (without the City Council doing anything) has joined the band wagon to blame the City workers not themselves for continuing to spend and we have to suffer and take cuts or face illegal furloughs. Ron you say you want better people to do the work but how can that be when we are looked at as failures for holding a City job and doing it well for years. Having developers run a building and planning department? Should the thieves be put in charge of the Police department since they know the most about crime?

  3. Anonymous says:

    Planning! Planning! Planning! Go get ‘im, FBI!

  4. Anonymous says:

    Hope FBI indicts the Neighborhood-busting trio of Bud Ovram, Gail Goldberg and Michael LoGrande who ceded City control to the developers.

  5. Anonymous says:

    With this administration, City Managers have enjoyed no accountability to the public. They make bad policies, mismanage budgets, defend the mayor (in order to keep their jobs), and influence Council to the detriment of the public. And with poor quality deputy mayors (political hacks) getting promoted to so many general manager positions, who knows what scandals are getting covered up? i feel the bad times will continue with the worst yet to come. The FBI has a huge task.

  6. Concerned Citizen says:

    The FBI needs to investigate the LA Housing Department on a much deeper level than it already is. Specifically, it needs to look into the activities of the Assistant General Manager in charge of Code Inspection and Compliance. As a crony of former GM Mercedes Marquez, he is not only completely incompetent, but also corrupt to the core, as are all of his appointees.

  7. Anonymous says:

    FBI needs to follow the money (and property purchases including foreclosure properties) from HUD to LAHD and HACLA!!
    Follow the money.
    The reason the Mayor wants Marquez back from Washington to run the Housing Authority is because she probably knows where the bones are buried.
    Can’t let that happen!!
    Hopefully Andre Birotte is his own man and not a lackey of the Mayor and LA City politics.

  8. anonymous says:

    Corruption is bad enough and costs the citizens dearly. I’m curious how this translates to homeowners who bought homes with permits had by bribes.
    My home was built in the mid to late eighties. Then came additional repairs after the quake.
    I purchased my home in the late nineties and am presently paying for many repairs. The contractors are scratching their heads, shocked at what was built not to code.
    It makes me wonder–was my home the result of bribery? I’ve heard creepy things about the man who built my home and I am curious if that translates to city permits.
    I hope to obtain all the permits for this house from DBS. Is that something I can turn over to the FBI? Would they be interested? I would be happy to walk them through the horrors of this house and believe it might prove how such corruption translates to the homeowner. I realize it’s possible the builders (or quake repair contractors) just didn’t get permits. I suppose I won’t know until it do some digging.
    ‘Am I chasing my tail, or is this a valid pursuit? If it’s a valid pursuit, what number do I call?

  9. anonymous says:

    I heard that, before Adler, commissioners carried badges and those badges were removed because of that scandal.

  10. anonymous says:

    Hope the FBI follows the trail of corruption of Bud Ovrum from his positions as CRA CEO, Deputy Mayor for Economic Development and then Bldg & Safety. The Mayor purposefully placed Bud in these key positions to further the developer and other corruption at each of these departments. The Mayor and Members of the City council have personally benefited from this arrangement.
    Bud is getting over $100,000 PERS retirement from CRA, plus his Bldg & Safety Dept. Head salary, plus, plus.
    CRA present and past staff activities should definitly be on the FBI investigation list as a part of the total reach of the City’s mismanagement and corrpution.

  11. anonymous says:

    Hope the FBI follows the trail of corruption of Bud Ovrum from his positions as CRA CEO, Deputy Mayor for Economic Development and then Bldg & Safety. The Mayor purposefully placed Bud in these key positions to further the developer and other corruption at each of these departments. The Mayor and Members of the City council have personally benefited from this arrangement.
    Bud is getting over $100,000 PERS retirement from CRA, plus his Bldg & Safety Dept. Head salary, plus, plus.
    CRA present and past staff activities should definitly be on the FBI investigation list as a part of the total reach of the City’s mismanagement and corrpution.

  12. Rumplestilskin says:

    Does Mr Ovrum even have any construction experience?
    Oh, and by the way….was there,is there, any conflict of interest on that housing project on Saticoy and Canoga Ave? I’m just asking?
    I don’t care what political party is in charge. As long as their ethical and don’t vote against the hardworking taxpayer and business.
    Respectfully,Rumplestilskin.
    ( I first saw tis play at Immaculate Heart High, long time ago)

  13. Anonymous says:

    The FBI should investigate the funding source of the Mayor’s high life, which cannot be sustained by his pay.

  14. Anonymous says:

    FBI should investigate AEG & its ties with the Mayor & certain Councilmembers. There is something corrupt there.

  15. Anonymous says:

    FBI should ivestigate Latham & Watkins & their power in City Hall. Based on what & why.

  16. anonymous says:

    The FBI investigation should involve many players. But, it may not take them very long to connect all the dots, because our city mayor, council people, lobbiests, developers, consultants, city staff, unions, etc., have become so greedy and arrogant it will be easy.
    The corruptive mandates from all of the above make it difficult to be an honest city employee. The entire city government structure is an unbelieveable nightmare that is not and cannot serve the citizens of LA. It is to serve the politicians and elected officials and all those connected to make sure they are the ones benefiting from city services… to enrich themselves..at taxpayer expense and higher taxes and fees. FBI..HELP.

  17. Anonymous says:

    The FBI will have a hard time deciphering corruption in the Planning Department, the keystone of corruption in City Hall, which would ensnare everyone from the Mayor and Council Offices to other departments. So easy to catch the petty criminals in Bldg & Safety where a handful of dollars are being exchanged. To understand the value of variances and conditional uses and other land use chicanery that result in million of dollars of gifts to developers would require FBI to have land use experts on their side.

  18. Anonymous says:

    We are all going to have the last laugh. Remember the Failure, Gangster Mayor campaigned on transparency and ethics. How hilarious that now is under his administration. We will all laugh when the FEDS start finding out just how much has been going on under the Failure of a Mayor and the corruption in city hall and people he associated with. The City of LA is in ruins thanks to our politicians and the Mayor continues to spend money planting trees

  19. Anonymous says:

    “The FBI will have a hard time deciphering corruption in the Planning Department, the keystone of corruption in City Hall, which would ensnare everyone from the Mayor and Council Offices to other departments. So easy to catch the petty criminals in Bldg & Safety where a handful of dollars are being exchanged. To understand the value of variances and conditional uses and other land use chicanery that result in million of dollars of gifts to developers would require FBI to have land use experts on their side.”
    That is true but much harder to prove!

  20. Anonymous says:

    6-6 6:08 AM
    It will take an independent Fed that specializes in money laundering with good independent moral conduct.
    They will need to start to look at it initially on their own time to build the case.
    They exist. Hope they will.

  21. Anonymous says:

    Talk about corruption why is Michael LoGrande the new planning guy telling people in his speech that he’s been in talks with NFL about the traffic around LA Live. Why would the NFL be involved if there isn’t even a deal approved by Council yet???

  22. Anonymous says:

    Cardenas + AEG = Corruption.
    Do you think AEG will have obscure friends and employees drop off contributions for Cardenas’ “fundraiser” this June 9th?
    Keep on eye on AEG propaganda machine and ad-hoc AEG Council committee member Cardenas. Already using outreach to educate/manipulate operatives on neighborhood councils for community support.

  23. Anonymous says:

    6:08, you are correct. If it was easy to prove the land use mafia games that are played here, they would cease. However, they did get Capone on something simpler than trying to unravel the complexities. We hope the same will happen here.

  24. Anonymous says:

    If we are to restore faith in thousands of honest employees who work for the city of LA, and who are ordered by the corrupt Villargoisa administration to do their bidding, we need to see justice done to this corrupt man. If none is forthcoming than the Feds are equally responsible for allowing a major city to go third world. People equate third world with squalid physical conditions. Those are the end result of allowing corrupt men to ruin cities.

  25. Anonymous says:

    Yes, there is a direct correlation between corrupted elected/appointed officials and the descent to third-world conditions in LA.
    Scum rises to the top.

  26. Anonymous says:

    I want to know how do we get State Controller John Chiang to come in and start auditing Los Angeles the way he has done cities like Bell, Montebello and others? He started with CRA and found over $850,000 in discrepancies but then we haven’t heard a word from him. Chiang does attend the LA politician events and I hope that doesn’t mean he’s favoring NOT fulfilling his job. Wendy Greuel has been a huge disappointment to many with her audits. As Controller isn’t it her responsibility to be watch dog over our tax money?? She has spent more time in front of a camera and at dinners, events, lunches, meetings then behind her own desk. Her staff do the audits

  27. Rod says:

    L.A city hall makes Bell smell like a flower shop but like Bell the day of reckoning is approaching fast.

  28. Rod says:

    L.A city hall makes Bell smell like a flower shop but like Bell the day of reckoning is approaching fast.

  29. Are LA voters angry enough to change the current administration at Los Angeles City Hall???

    LA voters in the March 2011 Elections voted for incumbents – People do not care, why???

    Why do we think LA city election on March 5, 2013 will be any different???

    I would think with the poor performance and dismal track record by the current administration, the voters would demand to change the current administration at LA City Hall.
    4 of the current LA Mayoral candidates are mostly recycled LA City Council members who have proven themselves unworthy by their repeated failure to solve the City’s problems and Council staff members who have demonstrated their loyalty and obedience to their pockets, like well-trained dogs.
    The corruption in LA government must be stopped.

    The performance of the current administrations borders on criminal neglect.
    In order to move forward, we must educate the voters, let them know that the current administration goals are business as usual, there will be no significant changes and the city will be heading into bankruptcy. The escalating costs of pensions and benefits will drain most of the city budget as we head into 2020. The increased taxes and fees on residents and businesses will push people and businesses to leave the city. This again will reduce revenues to the city.
    The city must initiate an austerity program. Cut salaries and benefits across the board, increase efficiency and performance. The Police Department should utilize civil service employees for clerical work, not Police Officers. The city must tighten its belt and reduce taxes and fees, streamline bureaucracy. Promote the health of existing businesses and actively go after new businesses. Any city employee who is not performing his job to standards should be put on suspension without pay or benefits and if such action has not improved the workers performance, the worker/employee should be terminated. The city must utilize its most expensive resource, its employees more efficiently, promote a good work environment and reward exceptional performance. People must realize that if they do not do their job, they will have no job and no means of support. The city must streamline management and reduce management costs. A high administrative cost is not prudent and not sustainable. LA’s employee costs are one of the highest in the country. We need a change in attitude, and that starts at the top. As they say in good leadership, “follow me”.

    The main question is, why LA voters don’t care, why they are resigned to accept failure and diminishing LA city services.

    Can we not find a leader who will motivate City Hall and initiate hard choices to bring the city to financial health?

    City elections should be held on the first Tuesday of November with all the other elections to Federal, County & State.
    It will reduce costs and increase voter turnout.
    The peoples brigade for honest government

    YJ Draiman
    http://www.yjdraimanformayor.com

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