CITY CONTROLLER WENDY GREUEL GOES AFTER FREE-SPENDING HOUSING AUTHORITY’S HIDDEN NON-PROFIT MONEY SOURCES
KCET’s local news show So-Cal Connected has done a killer job digging into the appalling spending excess mess running rife through the Los Angeles Housing Authority—HACLA.
However at first, City Controller Wendy Greuel was a little slower off the mark than we’d have liked in investigating HACLA aggressively (as the LA Weekly’s Simone Wilson points out here). But now the Controller has shifted into high gear—as evidenced by her announcement Tuesday that she has expanded her probe of HACLA to include the Housing Authority’s non-profit ventures, which she notes produced a tidy $15 million a year in net income—money that HACLA execs evidently thought was their own personal expense fund to raid at will for $2000 staff lunches, rampant high ticket travel junkets, endless limo use, personal gifts, “employee incentives” in the form of ipods and ipads, and more—all with seemingly no accountability.
Now Greuel aims to go deeper, her office said in Tuesday’s statement:
In a letter to HACLA’s interim President and CEO Doug Guthrie, Greuel indicated that her probe will expand to the enterprise activities run by the Authority that together produce a profit of more than $15 million a year. These activities include rental income for the 2,500 units owned and managed by HACLA’s nonprofits as well as the activities of the LOMOD Corporations and their subcontractors, which oversee the administration of HUD contracts.
This second phase of Greuel’s audit of HACLA follows last month’s announcement which revealed that HACLA officials were involved in wasteful spending, double dipping and irresponsible expenditures coupled with news of a $1.2 million payout to recently ousted Housing Authority CEO Rudolf Montiel.
NOTE: The video above, courtesy of Ron Kaye, show’s HACLA’s second ousted directer in a row, Ken Simmons, offering a retch-producing explanation of how all that lunch and limo money taken out of the agency’s non-profit earnings wasn’t, like, really stealing from the taxpayers or anything….
Yeah. Sure. Whatever you say, dude.
THE STATE OF MONTANA’S SUPREMES CHALLENGE SCOTUS’S INFAMOUS 2010 “CITIZEN’S UNITED” RULING ON CAMPAIGN SPENDING
See, this is yet one more reason to love Big Sky country:
Here’s how the article by Jess Bravin opens:
The U.S. Supreme Court decision in 2010 striking down federal limits on corporate and union political spending doesn’t apply to similar state laws, the Montana Supreme Court has found, renewing a legal debate over how sweeping the high court intended its ruling to be.
In a decision released late Friday, the Montana court held that the state’s Corrupt Practices Act, a century-old voter initiative banning corporate spending to support or oppose political candidates or parties, complies with the U.S. Supreme Court’s January 2010 ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission.
The justices voted 5-4 in Citizens United that corporations and unions had First Amendment rights to spend as they wished to favor or oppose candidates, regardless of the government’s view that such expenditures could corrupt elections for Congress and the presidency.
That last part about corrupting elections was what the Montana Supreme Court disagreed with. Corporate spending had, in fact, corrupted elections in the state, the MT Supremes ruled. And they had a list of instances to prove the point.
Their ruling will, of course, likely be appealed—to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Eugene Volokh has more—and he predicts that SCOTUS will agree to hear the case, then reverse the MT ruling.
AS THE NEW YEAR DAWNS, A LIST OF STATES TALK ABOUT THE HIGH COST OF THE PRISON BOOM
Doug Berman at Sentencing, Law and Policy has compiled a list of articles from around the country in which the states’ newspapers talk about the need for sentencing and corrections reforms.
Below, for example, is a snippet of what the Atlanta Journal-Constitution has to say:
Stepping away from a lock-em-up philosophy might have been the equivalent of political suicide in the 1990s, but that’s hardly the case today. Many leading conservatives — including Newt Gingrich and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and many others — support an approach that de-emphasizes prison for non-violent offenders.
Texas was among the first states to change course. In 2007, facing the need to spend $540 million to build new prisons expected to cost another $1.5 billion to run, the state decided to spend a fraction of the anticipated prison costs on alternative programs for non-violent offenders. Since the change, both the crime rate and the incarceration rate have declined.
In 2010, South Carolina adopted a reform package after lawmakers found that prisons were packed with repeat and non-violent offenders. The changes, projected to save up to $175 million in prison construction costs and $66 million in operating costs over five years, are designed to improve public safety. North Carolina also adopted sweeping legislation last year that will reduce spending on corrections with the goal of increasing public safety through programs that should cut repeat offenses.
[Georgia Gov. Nathan] Deal said changes enacted in other states will give Georgia models to consider. And so far, he said, he is hearing positive responses from lawmakers of all stripes. “As members of the General Assembly continue to see demands placed on them to appropriate more money for incarceration and see the numbers of inmates continue to rise substantially every year,” Deal said, “I think they’re certainly willing to embrace these changes.”
Yoooo-hooo, California lawmakers..…?! Why are you letting all these other more conservative state legislators move ahead of you, while you crouch behind your collective desks with your fingers in your ears, humming—hoping no one will notice?
I got news: We’ve noticed.
NOTE: PART 4 OF WLA’S DANGEROUS JAILS REPORT BY MATT FLEISCHER WILL APPEAR NEXT WEEK.
In the meantime, many, many thanks to those of you from the LASD—both actively working and recently retired—who have been giving us excellent tips, fact-checking help, guidance and encouragement as we continue to report. Please keep it coming.