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More on the cars that L.A. city officials drive [UPDATED]

January 30, 2009 |  4:56 pm

Los Angeles City Controller Laura Chick made a splash when she released an audit last week on the fleet of take-home cars assigned to elected officials.

One aspect of the audit that intrigued some of our readers was the fact that there’s no price limit on the vehicles council members can request, and that the cost of three Toyota Highlander hybrids recently purchased for three elected officials topped $40,000 each.

When we requested the list from the city’s General Services Department, we learned that a 2007 model was purchased for $40,707 for Councilman Tony Cardenas, who represents part of the San Fernando Valley. A 2008 model was purchased for $44,225 for Councilman Richard Alarcon, who also represents a portion of the Valley. And another 2008 model was purchased for $47,882 for Councilman Jose Huizar, whose district includes downtown, Boyle Heights, Eagle Rock and Highland Park.

UPDATED, 8:30 p.m.:  Huizar's office said late Friday that the general services department erred in reporting the purchase price of his vehicle. Rick Coca, Huizar's communications director, said the councilman's vehicle cost $44,225 -- the same as the SUV purchased for Alarcon.

Angela Sherick, an assistant general manager whose responsibilities include fleet services, said it was possible an error occurred when they entered the purchase price in their system, but she said she would not be able to verify the paperwork until Monday.

And the mayor's ride?

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s vehicle, a 2009 GMC Yukon hybrid SUV, is provided by the Los Angeles Police Department, which could not immediately provide the purchase price for the vehicle. The list price for the SUV, according to the Kelley Blue Book, is $51,870, but that does not include any of the car’s special security features.

As Chick noted in her audit, the city’s elected officials have access to free gas and maintenance — a nice perk considering that the council’s most recent pay raise in November 2007 lifted their salaries up to the neighborhood of $179,000 (though at least four of them opted not to take the increase).

Most of the cars driven by the city’s elected officials are hybrids (a contributing factor to price). The least expensive cars — below $25,000 — were Chick’s 2004 Prius hybrid, Councilwoman Janice Hahn’s 2006 Honda Civic hybrid and Councilman Tom LaBonge’s 2005 Ford Crown Victoria.

Council President Eric Garcetti leases a 2002 Toyota Rav 4 EV for $3,897 annually. Councilman Jack Weiss was the only council member who currently opts out of taking a city car; he drives his own and reimburses the city for maintenance work.

— Maeve Reston

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