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‘The Hotness,’ the Community College Scandal and the Wendy Greuel Question: Is She Tough Enough to Lead LA?

On Oct. 18, 2010, Miki Jackson at the tabloid HollywoodHighlands.org blog she runs with  John Walsh broke the story about the LA Community College District hiring as inspector general over its $5.7 billion construction program Christine Marez, an ambitious construction manager without auditing experience who had formed her firm just a few months earlier. 

“Community College District Chooses the “Hotness,” AKA Christine Marez, for their new $701,680 inspector general post,” said the headline.

” ‘The Hotness’is now Marez describes herself, with photos of her clinging to a shinny stripper pole at the Playboy Mansion and in numerous sexy shots from Vegas,” the post began. “Having gone to her ‘myspace’ page and looked at her ‘revealing’ shots I would have to agree she is not guilty of false advertising … Marez lists her interests as ‘men’ on the page — we are sure the interest is returned. She has a Facebook page too — that ones a little tamer — but she asks everyone to wish her luck — as she tries to land the big LACCD fish. Seem like she didn’t really need luck — not when you’re ‘The Hotness.’ ”

A few days later, I followed up on Miki’s report — unlike the corporate media — and set up my article with the headline “Wanted: A Thousand Citizen Watchdogs.”  I traced how our local government agencies — the MTA and LAUSD — had gutted inspector general positions that were created in the wake of scandals and predicted accurately that the momentum to create a Rate Payer Advocate to clean up the DWP would be weakened dramatically by the time it got on the ballot in March 2011 — a crime against good government that was the handiwork of wannabe Mayor Eric Garcetti.

Marez was not without some qualifications:  ”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.”

A February 2009 LAUSD audit of the Facilities Division where Marez worked found a lot of problems:  1,277 contractors earning $186 million — 1.7 times the cost of full-time employees. It noted the lines of authority between staff and consultants were “blurry,” causing a “lack of accountability” with consultants like Marez being hired routinely as  staff.

A consultant was indicted and the head of the Facilities Division eventually resigned but Marez — whose 2010 New Year’s resolution was to “double my income” — landed on her feet, formed the firm Policy Masters in May and got the lucrative IG contract in November, beating out Ernst & Young and Deloitte, giant firms with vast experience.

“My new firm is at the top of the list for an amazing contract!! Asking for your love and support,” she said on her Facebook page.

Just days after Marez got the IG job at LACCD, City Controller issued her audit on the school district’s construction program “giving a clean bill of health to the district — and presumably Marez, who shared responsibility for its policies and standards.

“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.”

A year later, in October 2011 with Marez on the job for 12 months, the LA Times tore apart the Community College construction program in a series entitled “Billions to Spend: Part 1 — Waste throws wrench into Los Angeles community colleges’ massive project.”

“Poor planning, frivolous spending and shoddy work dog the sprawling system’s bond-financed construction program” declared the secondary headline.

It wasn’t so much news at the time except for the details since State Controller John Chiang already disclosed two months earlierin August 2011 that the nation’s largest community college district “could not produce complete and timely records, spent funds outside voter-approved guidelines, ignored its own procurement rules, failed to plan effectively, and provided poor oversight of bond funding.”

“Local voters raised their property taxes for a major investment in workforce development and higher education,” said Chiang. “Shoddy fiscal management and sub-par oversight of a project of this magnitude will undermine the public’s trust and threaten billions of public dollars.”

Chiang did not stop there, his audit criticized the lack of citizen oversight and the appointment of Marez as inspector general.

The oversight committee, he said, “which is required to issue annual reports, failed to issue any report for seven years. The latest report was found to be virtually meaningless, noting only that the committee members had met and providing no evidence that they thoroughly scrutinized bond expenditures.”

The audit also examined the district’s creation of an Inspector General for bond funding. The Inspector General position was designed to be an independent entity guarding against waste, fraud, and abuse. But when establishing this position, the district ignored its own procurement rules and – at least in appearance – compromised the integrity of the new role. LACCD ultimately selected an outside consulting firm that was formed just before the district went out to bid on the contract, led by a principal with no audit or legal experience, and who was not qualified under the Principles and Standards of the Association of Inspectors General. The LACCD’s selection process also rated nine of the eleven respondents (companies) as more qualified for the work, but could not explain why they were removed from consideration. In addition, the chosen consulting firm’s proposal cost $250,000 more annually than an international auditing firm’s proposal.

And now today, July 18, 2012, our own City Controller and wannabe Mayor Wendy Greuel delivered her own judgment on the LACCD’s hiring of its Inspector General — the never named Marez  – saying the “evaluation process for the selection was flawed.”

“Some of the District’s actions are very troubling,” said Greuel in her press release.

“Everyone needs to play by the rules and clearly deviations from the procedures hampered the competitive bidding process. Our community college system is a valuable asset to Los Angeles and an essential part of educating our city’s future workforce.  LACCD must ensure that taxpayer funds are spent effectively and that proper procedures for contractor selection are adhered to.”

She acknowledged that “Policy Masters, Inc. was selected for the contract, despite not having experience in directing audits and investigations or a history of successful work elsewhere as a firm since it was newly established. ”

You can read the full audit of the leading candidate to rule this troubled city here but you really won’t learn anything that Miki Jackson didn’t tell you way back on Oct. 18, 2010.

But then who am I to argue with someone who ends her press release urging LACCD officials to “take a series of steps, including revising its policies and procedures, to help prevent the district from entering into another flawed RFP (request for proposal) processes” and boasting what she has achieved for taxpayers in the last three years when City Hall has consumed nearly $22 billion of their money.

“Controller Greuel has conducted more than 60 audits and uncovered nearly $130 million that the City has lost to wasteful spending, fraudulent activity and abuse of government resources over the last two years.”

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14 Responses to ‘The Hotness,’ the Community College Scandal and the Wendy Greuel Question: Is She Tough Enough to Lead LA?

  1. Noel Weiss says:

    Wendy Greuel is the most morally bankrupt politician running for Mayor. . . and that’s saying something because all of the politicians running should be retired. . . They are all phony, inept, contemptuous, cynical, corrupt, cowardly and lack the character or (most importantly) the emotional temperament which is needed at this most critical time in our City’s history.

    But Greuel stands out as the ‘worst of the worst’. . . .

    If I went into specifics, it would burden (but not bore) this blog. . . . .

    Since we’re talking about Greuel, I’ll cite one ‘quickie’. . . The Magnolia Blvd. Project (11927-11933 West Magnolia Blvd. , Valley Village. . . . .) This goes back to 2006 and 2007. Middle class tenants were being evicted left and right. . . . as speculators armed with sub-prime ‘commercial’ loans (financed through the same Wall Street securitization machine that caused the 2008 financial collapse) sought to speculate in land use entitlement rights. . . That meant buying properties at top dollar (can’t blame the sellers), and then enhancing the value with the aid of one’s local councilwoman who acted with full confidence that the rest of the Council would do what she wanted done.

    In this case, we’re talking about Greuel’s aiding and abetting the ‘speculator’ Gary Schaffel who sought the acquiescence and aid of Ms. Greuel in his effort to wipe out 51 units of RSO (middle class) Housing. . . . As a ‘subprime’ borrower, he managed to get $5.8 Million in funding (both the lender and the project eventually went under. . . Schaffel was foreclosed on. . . The lender taken over by the FDIC. . . So, when you hear of sub-prime loans, don’t forget about the speculators who used the Wall Street securitization machine to acquire sub-prime loans to speculate on the backs of tenants and surrounding homeowners by buying properties and then enhancing their value with land use entitlements doled out by Wendy Greuel).

    Do you think Greuel cared one iota about requiring the speculator Schaffel to do right by the tenants? Answer: No. Schaffel was so arrogant, he gave the impression that he had Greuel in his pocket. . . Members of the community and I spent nearly 80 hours negotiating with Schaffel. Do you think Greuel cared? Do you think she took one iota of interest in what we were doing? Do you think she offered her offices to try to mediate the land use entitlement and tenant issues? Think again. Answer: No. In point of fact, Greuel did absolutely nothing to protect either the community or the tenants who were evicted. After we hammered out a deal with Schaffel (which he never lived up to as far as paying the senior tenants the relocation fees to which they were entitled), Greuel never even showed the class or the courtesy to send a thank-you note to her constituents who had worked so hard. . . . .

    Then Greuel and Garcetti teamed up to further screw the middle-class tenants of the City with an ordinance that allows speculators like Schaffel to wipe out (in this case 51 units) of affordable housing and legally be able to replace those units with around 16 units (before the SB 1818 density bonus kicks in. . . making things even worse. . .). . Garcetti justified this little speculator give-away on the grounds that old rent-controlled housing was going to be torn down anyway. . . . Not true, of course. . . These 51 units were later rehabbed and because of the partnership and alliance between the tenants and the homeowners, they were saved and remain as affordable housing today (and rehabbed affordable housing is a lot cheaper to create than affordable housing borne from the demolition of older rent controlled units (not that the City Council would debate the issue, mind you. . . It might force these ‘kids with power’ to actually think and take a position on how the City can meet the affordable housing needs of its citizens. . . without wiping out and scattering the middle class tenants of the City. . . . and there are lots of ways. . . never discussed in the media or the Council. . . .)

    A Controller who is more ‘people’ oriented rather than ‘politics’ oriented; and a City Attorney who truly represents the ‘people’ can team up to ‘check’ the Council and the Mayor (and the City Attorney is the attorney for the people. . . The special interests say no. . . I say ‘yes’. . . and I hope at next election brings out a boat-load of people who agree and who will truly fight for that idea). . . .

    Greuel has not demonstrated anything approaching the toughness to fight for the people on much of anything. . She did not do it as a Councilwoman. . . and she has not done it as Controller. . . Her ‘audits’ (and I use the term loosely. . . These are not real ‘audits’ in any sense of the word) are nothing more than glorified press releases. There is no real in depth thinking; nothing approaching what can be described as ‘competent’ auditing methodology. . . . Has she issued one subpoena during her tenure to outside interests doing business with the City to get at the ‘blood and guts’ of corruption?. . .

    Right now, all of the politicians seem to fall in line. . . Confident in the fact that their meager vote totals are sufficient to enable them to hold power (at best, they are voted in by just 6%-8% of the registered voters. . . That leaves 92%-94% of the registered voters has never having voted for any of these people. . . What moral authority to they have to govern with such low vote totals? Any? I say no. . . . They lack the moral authority to govern. . . . While they may have the legal authority, the time has come to really shake things up in a way which empowers the people rather than panders to them. . . . .Greuel will pander. . . She has neither the intellect, nor the competence to do anything well. . . .

    So, returning to the story. . . . on the Magnolia Blvd. project, there’s the phony little ‘pixie’ Wendy Greuel, pandering to the people with complete and utter pretentiousness. . . . . Encouraging (by her inaction) the speculator Schaffel. . . .

    Greuel left behind tons of ‘speculator blight’ in CD 2. . . . . Did not fight hard for the tenants in the numerous cases where speculators went in, kicked out the tenants, tore down the buildings, and left vacant land formerly occupied by middle class tenants (one phone call telling the speculator Schaffel not to ‘screw’ with her constituents would have done it – For reasons I still don’t understand, the speculator Schaffel never tore down the Magnolia Blvd. units. That enabled them to be rehabbed and new tenants to move back in). . . .

    Nor did Greuel do anything to protect the homeowners. . . . She just stood by so the speculators could maneuver the system in the desired direction. . . . The direction desired by the speculator and by Greuel. . . .

    Given all the people Wendy Greuel has screwed through the years (unmercifully I might add), I honestly don’t know how she sleeps at night. . . . The woman is without any conscience, true concern, or moral scruples. . . Whatever advances her quest for power, she will do. . . . That is her sole criterion for action. . . She will step on anyone at anytime in order to gain power. . . . Politically calculating to the n’th degree. . . .

    Some may see this as tough and tenacious. . . . I see it as cruel, callous, and morally corrupt (and bankrupt). . . . . We don’t need ‘tough’ applied in favor of the special interests and well-connected. . . . They have the lawyers and the lobbyists to protect their interests. The kind of ‘tough’ we need is the ‘tough’ that fights the special interests on behalf of the broader public interest. . . Someone who has the ‘guts’ to fight, and the ‘guile’ to know which battle to fight and how to fight it. . . Someone who is willing to make the sacrifices needed to fight for the little guy. . . and make sure the system is made to work as intended.

    This Magnolia Blvd. story is just one shortened version of a longer story. . . . Incidents such as this abound throughout Greuel’s career. . . and they will be told with back-up documentation should Ms. Greuel get into a run-off. . . There is no need to purposely embarrass her. . . . . I have enough confidence in the people that just as with Trutanich, they can discern phoniness when they see it. . . . . and will act accordingly.

    Greuel Tough? Hardly. . .

    Manipulative? No question.

    Concerned for the little guy and gal? Don’t think so. . . . .

    Ms. Greuel needs to be defeated. . . . She is dangerous. . . She is deceitful. . . . She is demonstrably unfit for public office. . . . . .

    Noel Weiss

  2. Greuel’s claims of savings she has identified are merely estimates and do not take into consideration the resources and capabilities of departments to implement the changes. In other words, they are suggesting that cavemen should construct homes.

    Audit priorities need to be focused on rooting out fraud, even if it means efficiency audits have to be dropped. Fighting fraud requires a proactive, preventine strategy – not waiting until the damage is done just so the controller can issue a press release that says “look what I found.”

  3. Angeleno says:

    Guys relax. Wendy will never be Mayor. Wait till her dirty linen is aired. Corruption to the nth degree. Surrounded by Antonio`s cronies.

  4. anonymous says:

    Ron, this post makes my head spin…
    a flow-chart would help…always follow the money…
    former DWP Christine Marez in control of millions and billions of $$$…!
    and Gwendolyn the Mayor…
    please, help me…I feel faint…

  5. Scott Johnson says:

    Ron,

    This self-serving piece of political ambulance-chasing auditing is deserving of another LA Weekly’s Jill Stewart “Oh Pleaze!” Moment.

  6. LAISCORRUPT says:

    We all need to do everything we can to support Kevin James for Mayor. I hope everyone figures that out soon.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Gruel won’t win with Shallman as her campaign director.

  8. steve baede says:

    I don’t know when owners lost their land rights in the United States, especially in California and Los Angeles. Since when should owners be forced to have below market rents and subsidize tenant’s rents? Rent control is what causes blight and unscrupulous people to take advantage of the rent control laws. Just look at all the rich people in New York who have rent controlled apartments: Stallone, Rangel, etc. A person should be allowed to raise the rent as much as they like, if they raise it too much they will not be able to rent the apartment unit and they will have to lower the rent. The loss of property rights is the first thing that happens in a totalitarian society. That is why California and Los Angeles are going to hell – too much socialism (communism) won’t work. Look at all the hard working people who are leaving California being replaced with Welfare families instead. That is why Los Angeles is broke and so is California. When all the taxpayers are gone and we are left only with taxtakers you better kiss the California Dream good bye.

    • Vote blindly, then complain says:

      Let me try to be kind — you’re a moron and most likely a bigot.

      California in general and Los Angeles in particular have very serious problems, but you failed to identify a single cause accurately. Your ignorance, however, tend to discredit the larger group of people who have taken the time to learn the facts and sound economic policies, and based, upon facts they have zeroed in on the reason Los Angeles has extreme troubles. The posting about Greuel is an example of someone who speaks from experience.

      We do not have a totalitarian society. I know this because I am not in jail which is where I’d be if we were totalitarian. Are there moves in that direction? Yes, but we have no arrived them.

      Like others who know nothing about government or economics, you have no idea what the words “Socialism” and “Communism” mean.

  9. Teddy says:

    LAISCORRUPT says:

    ” July 20, 2012 at 8:51 am
    We all need to do everything we can to support Kevin James for Mayor. I hope everyone figures that out soon.”

    You got that right! The people in office right now, playing musical chairs with
    each others seats in government have ruiined our city!

    • anonymous says:

      por ejemplos:
      numero uno, El Antonio-egomaniac-Villaraigosa,
      numero dos, Tony-snake-in-the -grass-Cardenas.
      just think…these low-lifes will receive multiple
      generous pensions…living the high-life…
      while we suffer…

  10. Anonymous says:

    Gruel is bad. Garcetti is worse. Three lawsuits filed against his developer-enriching Hollywood Community Plan.

  11. Wayne from Corruptopia visiting Malibu says:

    Ventura County is GRUEL AND GARCETTI-FREE ZONES!

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