Southern California -- this just in

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How does this consumer affairs meeting help consumers?

November 20, 2008 |  5:38 pm

Three hundred members of state regulatory boards and 200 state staffers have descended on Los Angeles for four days of meetings aimed at raising the profile consumer affairs programs in the state.

But some participants are grumbling that having hundreds of people flying and driving to the conference is a stunt to promote the department that the state, with its budget in far the red, cannot afford.

"Why are we doing this when the state has a deficit? It’s wasteful," said a member of one state board, speaking on condition of anonymity because she is not authorized to speak for the board.. Carrie Lopez, director of the California Department of Consumer Affairs, said the Consumer Trust Summit that ends Saturday at the Westin Los Angeles Airport Hotel provides consumers access to the boards, and has members of different boards working together with law enforcement.

"We’ve been able to leverage a lot of the work we do and take it to a new level," she said.

Meetings today are being held by the Board of Registered Nursing, Veterinary Medical Board, Board of Accountancy, Acupuncture Board, Board of Pharmacy and Board of Optometry. Department spokesman Luis Farias argued that the conference is saving taxpayers money. All state boards are required to meet at least once in Northern California and once in Southern California each year, something that normally costs $70,000 annually, while having them all use one meeting space this week is costing $20,000, Farias said. However, many of the panels, including the Board of Barbering and Cosmetology, the Athletic Commission and the Acupuncture Board have already held at least one Southern California meeting this year. Farias could not say how much the board members and staff are spending on flights and hotels.

-- Patrick McGreevy