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Why LAPD officers escaped serious discipline (DN)

Posted on 25 February 2016 (0)
beck

By David Crane / Los Angeles Daily News

It was a spur-of-the-moment drug bust that went bad. Terribly bad.

With a marked $5 bill in hand, Los Angeles Police Department narcotics detective Arthur Gamboa leaned against a wall on a busy downtown sidewalk.

“Weed, Klonopin, weed, Klonopin …” That’s what Dale Garrett, a 6-foot-3, 240-pound black man was chanting that May day in 2011, the detective told investigators. He “snatched” the $5 bill from the officer and kept walking, Gamboa said. When the veteran detective protested, he said Garrett, 51, turned to face him and unfurled a long serrated knife. The detective fired two shots, fatally.

But the autopsy showed both shots entered Garrett’s back. And when another officer overturned Garrett’s body, he found a knife that was folded, not open. The civilian Police Commission found the evidence contradicted Gamboa’s version and ruled he violated department policy.

The two officers behind the sting operation were suspended for 22 days — a punishment rare for the LAPD, both for its length and that such discipline happened at all. Most shootings are deemed problem-free.

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Supervisor had 2 take-home cars, but denied it (DN)

Posted on 25 November 2015 (0)
Mike Reicher, L.A. Daily News

Mike Reicher, L.A. Daily News

On the Los Angeles County government’s official list of employee take-home vehicles, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas looks very frugal. His assigned car, a 9-year-old Chrysler 300 Limited sedan, cost the county about half as much as the next supervisor’s. But newly released vehicle maintenance records show that Ridley-Thomas, for most of last year, actually had two cars at his disposal. He mainly drove a 2012 version of the same model, a $39,000 taxpayer-owned car, that was essentially off the books.

The documents reveal that Ridley-Thomas, chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, was stretching the county’s vehicle resources more than other supervisors, and that he misrepresented his situation when challenged. Workers maintained, cleaned and fueled his two working cars for seven months, according to the records. They washed one of the sedans nearly three times a week.

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Why the DWP owns an empty, $150K/year lodge (DN)

Posted on 31 March 2014 (0)
Mike Baker, Los Angeles Daily News

Mike Baker, Los Angeles Daily News

A seven-bedroom historic lodge crowns the highest hill of Boulder City, Nev. Under a clay tile roof, its sunroom commands sweeping views of Lake Mead. A live-in caretaker stands by, ready to serve five-course gourmet meals on fine china.

But he’s usually dining alone. The house’s owners, the customers of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, live 300 miles away. “No Trespassing. Private Road,” warns a sign.

In the eastern Mojave Desert, this guest lodge is rarely used by the department. Instead, the DWP pays nearby hotels more than $500,000 each year to house workers, and it reserves the lodge for high-level meetings, despite owning an office building minutes away. Ratepayers, meanwhile, spent more than $153,000 last fiscal year to run the 1931 Spanish Colonial Revival house.

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Mesa Water’s $500,000 rebranding (OCR)

Posted on 31 March 2014 (0)
Jebb Harris, Orange County Register

Jebb Harris, Orange County Register

Orange County Register

Native American musicians blessed the “ancestral waters,” valets parked cars for 150 “VIP” guests and $50,000 event planners passed out catered custom cookies shaped like water drops and redwood trees – $1,500 worth of cookies.

Last month’s unveiling of a revamped water filtration facility is just a small example of Mesa Water District’s lavish spending on marketing and communications.

While raising rates, the public provider of Costa Mesa’s drinking water has increased its communications spending by 300 percent in four years. It now wields a $1.25 million annual budget that dwarfs those at similar water districts. The district serves just 110,000 customers.

People don’t have a choice in their water provider, yet district officials want to pump up their reputation. They say not enough ratepayers know their name, which could be a problem during natural disasters, or when officials need to pass a bond measure. But an underlying motivation, board meeting minutes show, may be their desire to remain an independent agency in the face of criticism. To raise their profile, Mesa officials have paid six figures to public relations consultants and staff.

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ALSO READ: Mesa Water drops branding campaign after backlash

ALSO READ: Mesa Water denied copyright for pricey logo

Officials get cash for concerts, funerals, parties (OCR)

Posted on 31 March 2014 (0)
Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register

Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register

Orange County Register

On Thursday evenings during the summer, the elected directors of the Midway City Sanitary District enjoy the Westminster Concerts in the Park and some charge trash and sewer ratepayers for a “day of service” – $207.

All five of the sewage directors attended the 2012 series, which featured a local bagpipe group. Midway City board members Frank Cobo and Allan Krippner claimed meeting pay, according to public records, for four shows total.

It’s about “interacting with the people whom we serve,” Krippner said. “Believe me. You don’t get rich on this little job.”

The bagpipe concerts are one example of how directors are compensated at 15 Orange County special districts, small independent agencies responsible for water, sewer or trash removal.

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Could supervisor’s votes be conflicts? (OCR)

Posted on 31 March 2014 (0)
Jebb Harris, Orange County Register

Jebb Harris, Orange County Register

Orange County Register

It was a cozy affair – a gathering of high-powered Orange County hospital leaders paying tribute to county Supervisor Janet Nguyen.

About 15 executives huddled with Nguyen on Feb. 28, 2012, in the Lemon Heights home of Dan Brothman, CEO of Western Medical Center Santa Ana and senior vice president of operations for Integrated Healthcare Holdings Inc. They noshed on meatballs in Brothman’s family room and inked $5,000 worth of checks for Nguyen’s summer re-election.

Brothman would later describe the fundraiser as a “meet and greet” with Nguyen.

Two days later, Nguyen voted as a trustee for Orange County’s health network for the poor – Cal-Optima – to pay $750,000 to IHHI-owned hospitals to settle a lawsuit over unpaid bills. A unanimous vote March 1, 2012, by five members of CalOptima’s board of directors was held in closed session and has still not been disclosed by CalOptima.

The 2009 breach-of-contract lawsuit by IHHI alleged CalOptima failed to pay Integrated Healthcare hospitals for $2 million worth of services to Medi-Cal patients covered by CalOptima. Court records show it is one of a number of similar suits filed by hospitals against the agency.

The Orange County Register confirmed the vote and the settlement through court documents and interviews with officials involved in the case.

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Water officials’ meals, travel top $170,000 (OCR)

Posted on 31 March 2014 (0)
Michael Kitada, for the Register

Michael Kitada, for the Register

Orange County Register

They ordered a $50 bone-in aged rib-eye steak and crème brulee at The Falls Prime Steakhouse in Palm Springs. At a dinner for two, the Mesa Water District board members charged $144 to a district credit card.

It was the eve of last year’s Urban Water Institute conference, which featured such topics as “explaining to constituents why water rates are going up while water use is down.”

The dinner was a small portion of what top Mesa Water managers and directors spend on conferences, food and travel. Credit card statements and other expense documents obtained by the Register show that five directors and eight staff members rang up more than $170,000 in expenses over 2011 and 2012.

Spending ranged widely among the 13 – one individual spent less than $2,000, the general manager more than $30,000.

During the two years, they charged $45,500 for in-town meals, at least $36,000 at hotels and $21,000 in airfare.

All the directors rode in jets, three rode in chauffeured town cars and one rented a Cadillac sedan for $409. Four of them also dined at Ruth’s Chris Steak House and several at the Balboa Bay Club.

Four directors also collected $207 stipends for a “general manager meeting” on the same days they dined with the district’s chief executive at local restaurants, with the tab picked up by the district.

“The reason all this is happening is nobody is paying attention to them,” said Robert Stern, an attorney who helped write the state’s Political Reform Act. “Nobody’s watching.”

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Special Report: Pol’s Address in Doubt (Daily Pilot)

Posted on 03 December 2011 (0)
Mike Reicher, Daily Pilot

Mike Reicher, Daily Pilot

Daily Pilot

A candidate for state office may not have lived in the district he seeks to represent at the time he registered to vote, when he submitted his nomination papers, and when he voted there during the primary election, according to campaign finance and voter registration records and accounts from several neighbors.

Businessman Phu Nguyen, the Democratic candidate for the Costa Mesa-area 68th Assembly District, grew up in a home within the district and stated during an interview that he moved back in before he registered to vote, but neighbors and public records indicate that he did not.

If that is the case, election law experts say, he may have committed perjury on his voting affidavit and on his nomination papers, and may have voted fraudulently. Officials and legal experts cite the California election code, which says an Assembly candidate must be qualified to vote, and therefore have his or her “domicile” in the district.

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Mayor Votes, Despite Financial Ties (D. Pilot)

Posted on 04 October 2011 (0)
(Kevin Chang / Daily Pilot)

(Kevin Chang / Daily Pilot)

Daily Pilot

Newport Beach Mayor Mike Henn has long championed the revitalization of struggling Lido Village.

He led the city’s efforts to improve the commercial area’s streetscape, redesign streets and parking, and bring more shoppers through its stores. When residents or council members suggested they slow down or focus on other struggling parts of town, such as Mariner’s Mile, Henn insisted that Lido Village remain the top priority.

“It’s good for all the residents of Newport Beach,” Henn said in an interview. “It’s a critical issue to move forward.”

Henn’s council district includes Lido Village — a gateway area to the Balboa Peninsula — so his advocacy to improve the area and please his constituents should come as no surprise. But he is also personally invested in the zone’s success.

As a business consultant, Henn is paid more than $100,000 a year by a shop owner in one of the village’s distressed retail centers, according to disclosure forms he filed with the state.

Conflict-of-interest experts, however, say Henn should have avoided voting on or discussing the issue on the City Council because improving the retail center could directly benefit his client and indirectly help him.

“It’s just too close of a financial connection to participate,” said Bob Stern, president of the L.A.-based Center for Governmental Studies nonprofit and co-author of the state’s Political Reform Act, adding that his point of view should not be considered a legal opinion.

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Cell towers get poor reception (LAT, Daily Pilot)

Posted on 03 August 2008 (0)

cell

Daily Pilot

CRYSTAL COVE STATE PARK — He fought powerful interests: Caltrans, Orange County, the state parks system and the Irvine Co., all in the name of ocean views.

Dale Ghere, then a high school biology teacher, spent the late 1990s eradicating a towering brush from swaths of Crystal Cove State Park. The saltbrush was blocking views — not from his home — but from Coast Highway, where he rode his bike each day.

Everything was clear until May, when a cell phone company stuck a pole next to the state-owned highway. It was not one of those lunar rover-looking towers, but a slender, 30-foot tall pole. Still, Ghere — and a few others — were surprised to see it: The company didn’t announce it publically, nor did it apply for a California Coastal Commission permit or inform the state parks it was erecting the pole.

“They just don’t get it. People have been working for four decades to get this park developed,” Ghere said, agitated. “For me it’s just one more little chink, just one more little thing that gets in the way of the open space.”

Click here to read the rest of the story in the Daily Pilot and here here to read the version in the Los Angeles Times.