Last week the Los Angeles City Controller released an audit finding that "millions of gallons of taxpayer-funded city fuel was pumped in recent years with no record of where it went." According to the report, City Hall lost another $7 million (if not more) of your money because of their systemic incompetence, or possibly even theft. Some quick research, however, conducted by a few Angelenos concerned about corruption in City Hall -- who also happen to have good memories -- thought that this story sounded eerily familiar.
The truth is that a strikingly similar "fuel usage" audit had been conducted years before, by the prior City Controller (Laura Chick), back in January 2009. Significantly, the very same "Director of Auditing," Farid Saffar, CPA, supervised both audits.
Controller Chick's 2009 audit concluded, among other things, that the Department of General Services "does not provide reports to departments so they can monitor their employees' fuel transactions for appropriateness."
Controller Greuel's 2012 audit concluded, among other things, that "departments do not utilize the data available... to monitor fuel use for potential problems or abuse."
These remarkable similarities lead to a very disturbing and troublesome question: if city officials knew of Controller Chick's 2009 "fuel usage" audit, had it in their possession, sat on it and did nothing about it for more than three years, were they consciously and intentionally allowing L.A. taxpayers to continue to be ripped off, and consciously and intentionally allowing the guilty city departments to continue the abuse -- all with the grand scheme of waiting to expose the abuse again when a political advantage could be obtained?
And what better time to maximize press coverage of this possible fraud than when gas prices are a national news story on a daily basis? Indeed, the first nine words of the Controller's 2012 audit cover letter are "Record level gas prices have affected all of us."
Unfortunately, this begs the question that what has been described as City Hall "incompetence" for years now might not be incompetence at all, but something else entirely. Incompetence suggests a lack of ability, even a slight sense of innocence, while perhaps reaching a level of negligence -- which is much less severe than intentional misconduct.
A fair review of this matter, however, suggests intentional misconduct inside City Hall -- at the extreme expense of innocent and hard-working taxpayers.
What did any of our city officials do since the 2009 "fuel usage" audit was released by Controller Chick to end this abuse of the taxpayer? Four City Hall insiders running for mayor all have or had titles that demonstrate high-level/senior leadership positions (Controller, City Council President, City Council President Pro Tempore and First Deputy Mayor). Yet, nothing was done. Nothing. Possible fraud, waste and abuse was allowed to continue.
Sadly, the same intentional misconduct questions are also being asked about the city's embarrassing Fire Department response-time scandal. Coincidentally, the LAFD response time story also existed in 2009. And again, nothing was done by city officials to solve the problem before this election season.
The same intentional misconduct questions are being asked about the city's embarrassing "Gold Card Desk" scandal, the city's embarrassing Coliseum Commission scandal, the city's embarrassing Building and Safety Department scandal, the city's embarrassing Housing Authority scandal, the city's embarrassing "free-ticket" scandal, embarrassing recent indictments of numerous city officials, and the city's embarrassing inability to even begin to recover over $540 million in collections.
I am running for mayor to do what my opponents have proven they are not tough enough to do -- to turn this city around. Together we can lift Los Angeles out of its decade of decline. But to do so, Angelenos must elect new leadership that is untainted by current city government.
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