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Greuel calls for greater scrutiny of neighborhood councils' spending

After conducting a months-long audit of the city’s system for funding 89 neighborhood councils across Los Angeles, City Controller Wendy Greuel said there had been a “systematic failure” in basic financial oversight of the groups and called for greater scrutiny of their spending.

The accounting problems at the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment, which tracks the expenditures of the city’s neighborhood councils, were documented by the controller’s office in a 2006 audit. Greuel’s new report shows that many of those issues persist.

Last year, The Times reported that six neighborhood councils were accused of misspending $250,000 and that five treasurers or presidents of the groups had been charged with felonies for misusing taxpayer money.

The controller’s new report estimates that those groups made $276,000 in questionable expenditures.

“We need to put in checks and balances to ensure that doesn’t happen again,” Greuel said.

The voters approved a system of neighborhood councils as part of the city’s new charter in 1999 to give communities a greater voice in governance. But the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment has struggled to stay abreast of spending. Until this year, when city officials reduced the annual allotment to neighborhood councils by $5,000, the groups were given $50,000 annually for events and projects, which could be carried over for three years.

Greuel’s auditors found that the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment was unable to identify each neighborhood council’s available balance, according to the report. And although each neighborhood council is required to turn in a quarterly financial report detailing expenditures, five submitted their last report in 2006, according to Greuel’s audit.

The Department of Neighborhood Empowerment — which has just one auditor — currently has a backlog of 364 quarterly financial reports yet to be reviewed. The controller’ s office reported that it could find no evidence that the department has been reviewing neighborhood councils’ budgets to determine whether their spending is appropriate.

As The Times reported last year, credit cards are routinely issued to neighborhood council treasurers without background checks, and there have not been controls in place to ensure that the councils adhere to credit card limits or a rule limiting cash advances to $500 a month.

Greuel said replacing the cash advance privileges with a petty cash system could create more accountability. Auditors in the controller’s office also did spot checks of the equipment inventories of 14 neighborhood councils. Five of the groups could not account for some of the items purchased, including cameras, computers, microphones and translation machines.

Greuel plans to outline her findings at a news conference this morning ,

-- Maeve Reston at L.A. City Hall

 
Comments () | Archives (10)

Why doesn't she audit City Halls Spending and LAPD's spending or here is a better one Why not the overtime in the LAFD.

I wonder if some of the folks at some of the neigborhoods hired family members for events. Padded the bill? I had seen this activity before. Follow the money. Gruel

IT'S ABOUT TIME !

Probably 70% of the people who manage other's money are going to either steal it or put it to illegal use. Folks can't be surprised when people misuse their positions to better themselves financially. It's our new society, folks. Get use to it.

Thank you for reporting on this matter! Please keep us updated.
I want an audit on all levels of Los Angeles government before we cut one more vital program or educator!!

Are the five who didn't turn in reports the same five who couldn't account for cameras and microphones? Well, start there-- see, I've just saved you the price of two auditors. We're talking about a $45,000 budget per council, people...to put on local events for small businesses. That's chicken feed. Meanwhile, how much did we spend for police to close the freeway ramps for the Michael Jackson funeral?

these neighborhood councils are just so typical of local and statewide bureaucrats who want in on the "cash". they have no concern for the well being of the citizens of their communities, they look at what is best for themselves and that's it. fire all of them now. what kind of insanity is this?

It's about time. These neighborhood counsels were a terrible idea. They accomplish absolutely nothing and are generally populated by meddling neighbors trying to protect their own interests at the expense of others. Following the report mentioned in the article (which I will read with great interest), I hope they disband this failed attempt at giving people a greater say in governance.

mdw it is funny a truck driver can get shut down after 10 hours of driving. while police can work 12 hours and carry a gun continue on their 11th hour into a high speed pursuit. your on to something about overtime.

To Controller Greuel,

Please make sure that the City Council notes everytime that they vote on an agenda item just what it will cost the City.

Ask the President to notify the Council and Public for every agenda item that has a cost to the City. Then agenda items with City costs cannot be bundled together to pass without discussion.


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L.A. Now is the Los Angeles Times’ breaking news section for Southern California. It is produced by more than 80 reporters and editors in The Times’ Metro section, reporting from the paper’s downtown Los Angeles headquarters as well as bureaus in Costa Mesa, Long Beach, San Diego, San Francisco, Sacramento, Riverside, Ventura and West Los Angeles.
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