LA POLITICS - Ron Galperin redefined the position of LA City Controller.
Besides the technical competence he brought to the office – long overdue – he was a true outsider who introduced modern applications and communications.
His audits did not pull punches. For example, when he saw waste and mismanagement, he was resoundingly frank in his audit reports and recommendations. This was particularly evident in his critique of outrageous affordable housing construction costs and the disgraceful actions of the DWP’s union and management involvement with the now-defunct Joint Trusts, which were little more than conduits for expensive junkets.
We will miss Ron and can only hope he is successful in his run for State Controller. His talents are sorely needed there. More on that in another article.
Of all the candidates to replace Ron, David “Ty” Vahedi best mirrors his background. With the exception of Stephanie Clements, the other candidates lack the necessary technical qualifications.
With all due respect to Kenneth Mejia, as a CPA myself, eleven years in public accounting does not qualify a person to manage 160 personnel performing diverse and complex accounting, financial reporting and auditing functions. His judgment is questionable too: he described President Biden as a “sexual predator.” Such an attack is indicative of immaturity and impetuousness.
Vahedi can point to over 30 years as a CFO and auditor, plus he has a grassroots POV not matched by his opponents through his involvement with the Westside Neighborhood Council and Homeowners Association. He has audited situations where criminal activity was suspected. It seems as if that kind of experience could come in handy when dealing with a growing trend of corruption in our city. Like Galperin, he is an attorney, which complements his BS in Accounting.
Vahedi, as the first candidate for city office by a Neighborhood Council board member, lost by the slimmest of margins when he ran for City Council against Paul Koretz in 2019.
Clements’ experience as CFO of the Bureau of Street Services and analyst for the Fire and Police Pension fund is impressive. However, at the Budget Advocates’ Controller debate, when asked about whether the pension funds’ liabilities should be tested more frequently than five years, her answer was dismissive: she said the funding was fine. I agree the funds are in good shape at this point in time and do not have to be audited every year, but a deep analysis of the assumptions and markets by professionals who report directly to the Controller should be performed regularly. World markets are in turmoil and highly volatile; investments will likely be subjected to more of the same due to the war in Ukraine, climate change, COVID and divisive domestic politics. Clements is feeling too comfortable with the status quo. She would make an excellent Deputy Controller, though.
Even well-funded plans can be a drain on the revenue needed to support vital, ongoing services. During a controller debate sponsored by the Neighborhood Council Budget Advocates, Vahedi was the only candidate to grasp the fundamental issue associated with the city’s post-retirement plans: the ever-growing share of the general fund they consume. He claimed they absorbed 15% of the general fund, up from 6% from the not- too-distant past. This was consistent with the trend I observed and mentioned in a CitywatchLA article in 2017.
If nothing else, do not support the insiders: Paul Koretz and Rob Wilcox.
The former has absolutely no qualifications and would not understand the disciplines of auditing and operational accounting; if anything, his failure to address the city’s retirement costs as a member of the Employee Relations Committee has contributed to the trend Vahedi cited. If you are looking for fiscal prudence, you won’t find it in Koretz.
The latter was a deputy controller for Laura Chick, but that position did not require the technical qualifications needed for serving as the City Controller. Also, how much he knew of the scandal-ridden DWP settlement fiasco while serving as Mike Feuer’s deputy needs to be reviewed. If he claims he was not aware of grossly unethical actions of Feuer’s attorneys, then he does not have the right stuff for the office of City Controller.
Vahedi has the best mix of experience, sound judgment and professionalism for the job.
David is also strongly endorsed by Jack Humphreville, Dr. Ken Alpern, Jay Handal, Dennis Zine, Phyliss Daugherty, and many others. It is rare to see so many of our featured writers and the people you trust coalescing around one candidate.
(Paul Hatfield is a CPA and former NC Valley Village board member and treasurer. He blogs at Village to Village and contributes to CityWatch. He can be reached at: [email protected])