LA WATCHDOG-Residents of Tom LaBonge’s Council District are frustrated by his failure to provide information on a timely basis regarding the millions in disbursements that he has authorized from his discretionary accounts over the last five years. Rather than honoring legitimate requests made pursuant to the California Public Records Act, LaBonge has dodged these requests, claiming that there are “unusual circumstances” because of the need “to search for, collect, and appropriately examine a voluminous amount of separate and distinct records.”
Of course, this response and the ensuing delay are absolute utter nonsense as every Councilmember knows the details of his discretionary accounts down to the last dime.
LaBonge (photo), along with the other members of the City Council, has a number of discretionary accounts that allow him to finance pet projects without going through the normal budget process. Tom has a $100,000 a year taxpayer funded slush fund and an office holder account funded by his friends, up to a maximum of $75,000 a year. He has a Real Property Trust Fund that is funded by oil pipeline franchise fees and the sale of surplus properties in his District; a Street Furniture Fund which relies on revenues from advertisements on bus shelters; and his AB 1290 account that is funded by the redirection of incremental property taxes from the former Community Redevelopment Agency. There may also be some Community Amenity trust funds.
While very little is known about these less than transparent discretionary accounts, his constituents know that he transferred $100,000 from his AB 1290 account to the LA Zoo to fund its holiday light program. They are also aware that these accounts helped finance a Hollywood shindig celebrating Elvis Presley’s 80th birthday. He has also diverted funds to his Council office to support his already bloated staff.
At the same time, the streets and sidewalks in LaBonge’s Council District are reputed to be some of the worse, if not the worst, in the City. This has caused many residents to wonder why he is blowing our money on events and extra staff that do not benefit the district.
This contrasts with Councilman Bernard Parks who has allocated almost $1 million of his discretionary funds to repair sidewalks his district.
On Wednesday night, the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council passed a resolution calling on Tom LaBonge (and all the other members of the City Council) to provide voters with full and complete information on his discretionary accounts for the last five years.
We are not talking about chump change.
LaBonge’s office holder account has received contributions of over $750,000 during his time in office. In 2010, a Controller Wendy Greuel audit indicated that the Real Estate Property Trust Fund for all Councilmembers had received $25 million over the previous twelve years. In 2010, Mayor Villaraigosa asked the Councilmembers to “lend” the City $40 million to help close the $212 million budget shortfall.
Now is the time for LaBonge (and all of his cohorts on the City Council) to come clean on the sources and uses of the millions that have passed through his discretionary accounts.
After all, Tom, it is our money.
Vol 13 Issue 13
Pub: Feb 13, 2015