Just like you, I have been disgusted over the recent
news reports on the outrageous spending and settlement decision by the Housing Authority
of the City of Los Angeles.
The crisis of ethical judgment at the Housing Authority
demands swift action from the elected leaders of Los Angeles and the state of
California. The Housing Authority is a state-chartered public agency,
with a billion dollar annual budget, governed by a seven member Board of
Commissioners appointed by the Mayor of Los Angeles.
According to an article in Saturday’s Los Angeles Times
the Board of Commissioners recently approved a shocking $1.2 million dollar
settlement to its disgraced former Director Rudolf Montiel.
Friday evening KCET-TV’s So Cal Connected program
revealed that Montiel had approved shopping and dining sprees paid for by
taxpayers during his reign. The perks listed as “employee incentives”
included thousands of dollars in purchases from Bed Bath and Beyond, Target,
Edible Arrangements and a whopping $4,500 on Lands’ End sweaters alone.
The lavish dining expenses included tens of thousands of
dollars to such swanky establishments as Ruth’s Chris and Flemings.
For this flagrant abuse of public dollars the Housing
Authority Board of Commissioners has awarded Montiel with a million dollar
Several top employees who participated in the flagrant
spending are still with the Housing Authority.
What is most disturbing regarding these startling
revelations is the lack of indignation and action by elected leaders.
When asked for comment by KCET, the Mayor’s office declined comment. It
is shocking and disappointing but hardly surprising.
Where are the calls for an overhaul of the Board of
Commissioners? Where are the hearings to discuss the organization and
oversight of the Housing Authority and how it could and should be
KCET had already exposed questionable spending at the
Housing Authority last March yet Los Angeles City officials did not immediately
act to push for needed reform at the agency.
City Controller Wendy Greuel, just now, after over 8
months since KCET’s first expose, is finally releasing an audit that peeks at
the tip of the iceberg already exposed. Shortly before Friday’s latest
report by KCET, she issued a letter to the Housing Authority’s Commission
President to “strongly suggest” a broader audit.
The time for suggestions has long passed. It is
time to knock on the Housing Authority’s door and demand that they open up
their books to the full light of day and account for their actions.
Councilmember Dennis Zine certainly had it right
when he spoke of the spending at the Housing Authority, “I find that
outrageous, and Rudy had his own problems, but the fact of the matter is,
people that are adults have a responsible judgment and they get paid to do a
job and these people obviously ripped-off the system, they ripped-off the
federal government, they ripped-off everybody.”
Bravo! But where is the chorus joining
When I left the City Controller’s Office in April of 2009
I said that the City of Los Angeles reminded me of an old castle with a
drawbridge over a moat and that drawbridge was quickly retracting. In
retrospect we see that those words are sadly true.
Now it is time for you the people of Los Angeles to be
indignant and demand immediate and effective action to reform the Housing
Authority of the City of Los Angeles.
In my eight years as City Controller I knew that if the
public became outraged over what one of my audits uncovered and demanded action
that we had a real chance of getting elected officials to act. Now again
it is up to you.
LAURA N. CHICK