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Prosecutors examine spending by L.A. supervisors

Los Angeles County prosecutors are examining whether county supervisors broke the law when they spent millions of taxpayer dollars on pet projects without a public vote or discussion.

The inquiry began in response to a complaint received last week when The Times detailed some of the $3.4 million each of the five supervisors is given to spend annually, said Head Deputy Dist. Atty. David Demerjian, who oversees the district attorney’s public integrity division.

Among the expenditures was $25,000 by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas to buy a place in Who’s Who in Black Los Angeles. Supervisors Mike Antonovich, Don Knabe and Ridley-Thomas used some of their money to pay for cars and chauffeurs. Knabe's armed driver makes $90,000 annually.

Demerjian, whose division typically prosecutes public corruption cases, said he assigned two prosecutors to handle the inquiry. One is reviewing whether supervisors violated the state’s open meetings law by spending the funds without a public vote.

The second is examining whether supervisors had the legal authority to spend the money.

“To expend public funds, you have to spend according to some resolution, some statute or some charter section and it has to serve a governmental purpose,” Demerjian said Thursday.

He said prosecutors have asked the county counsel’s office what authority the board of supervisors had for the so-called discretionary spending and expects a response next week. He declined to name the person who sent the complaint, which was made the same day The Times published its story.

The supervisors’ discretionary accounts are used to cover staff salaries, expenses, travel, special programs and donations to outside groups.

The Times found that supervisors gave a total of $4.8 million to outside groups in the last 28 months – sometimes raising their public profiles or benefiting friends and political supporters.

Other jurisdictions insist on greater accountability out of concern that such spending might otherwise be an illegal gift of public funds. Surrounding counties require public discussion of donations to outside groups, as well as a detailed accounting and a vote.

-- Jack Leonard

Check out The Times' database on supervisors spending and staff salaries.

Photo credits: Los Angeles Times

Comments () | Archives (26)

Bravo to the LA Times for bringing this information to light. It is unfathomable at any time, but particularly in these challenging economic times, for elected officials to have millions of dollars to spend on pet projects as they see fit, and with no public discussion.

Um, yeah, this has been going on forever, right? I'm glad the media and prosecutors have now found this hiding in plain sight. Kudos to LATimes for getting this out.

Everyone should take a look at those lists. Many of the recipients seem OK, but why does an individual (Supe) get to decide which private organization gets our tax money? $6000 to a Womens Golf Club? They're obviously using it like their personal funds.

It's about freakin' time someone looked into the waste of our tax dollars. It needs to be done for the city, state and federal governments too. Like we all didn't know that already. These public "servants" are stealing us blind and the sheep get herded to the polls and keep re-electing these crooks. But not anymore. The unemployment line is going to get a lot longer with the next election cycle.

It is already common knowledge that Supervisor Antonvich uses County resources to print stacks of right-wing news articles to send to a select group of constituents. And the 25T that Supervisor Thomas spent to stroke his own ego would have paid the salary of a front-line eligibility clerk at DPSS. All of the five County Supervisors should be ashamed of themselves, not to mentioned chagrined for being so amazingly politically tone-deaf.

I find it odd that we are laying off county & city workers, teachers, and others while the County Supervisors have $3.4Million EACH to spend as they see fit!!!
During times when the city and county are crunching for cash the first place that should be stripped is any discretionary funding!!! This is the reason why not only the city, but also the state is broke, TOO MUCH discretionary spending!!!
And to spend TAX PAYER money on building their campaigns and political power is down right criminal!!!
Every bit of that poorly spent money needs to be paid back to the county and used to fix our more pressing problems!!! Thats alot of teacher salaries these Supervisors are spending!!

I think it's pretty obvious that they were not suppose to be doing this.
The 4.8 million dollars they spent in the last 28 months should be returned to us it's money taken from our paychecks every two weeks.
I think it would only be fair to either fire all of them, let the public vote on which should keep their positions or pay our money back to us.
How much was spent prior to the last 28 months, this didn't start 28 months ago this has been going on for many many years now.
How do I file a complaint to the city so this will get looked into further, anyone have a link to who we can send our complaints to?

Good for the DA for investigating.....now let's see what they determine?

Throw the book at these arrogant knuckelheads !

Too bad this wasn't discovered a long time before now. Maybe we wouldn't be in the economical mess we're in today. Our politicians have been working on easy street too long and taking advantage of the people that put them in office. Is it too little too late...let's hope not. Thank you L.A.Times for discovering these outragious expenditures. How much more is lurking in the shadows!!!

In the end, what will really happen? A Supervisor going to jail? The lavish lifestyles of these old fat pigs has gone way out of control. They are way out of touch with the needs of everyday people yet have an open coffer of taxpayers money to give away to themselves, friends, and political paybacks. We The People need to remind them- and ourselves that L.A. County Supervisors, the President, and everyone in between are PUBLIC SERVANTS and are here to serve the public-NOT themselves! In these hard times where people are losing their jobs, including school teachers who teach our children, the future generation, firefighters, businesses closing, how much can we take?? They need to be held accountable- ONCE AND FOR ALL- held to the same standards, laws, and judgment just like anyone else and be prosecuted if they have done anything criminal. If it's a "grey" area- they should at least give the money back. The mansions they live in, their chauffer driven luxury cars, their extravagant spending, and their entire careers and legacies of corruption NEEDS TO BE STOPPED!! It can if justice prevails and no "powers" are allowed to interfere- let's see but let's do something if it doesn't!!

Ridley-Thomas and Knabe should step down immediately!

Armed drivers?? need they say more..there stealing your money..$25,000.00 for who's who..PEOPLE that's YOUR MONEY inflating his EGO ..get rid of these THEIVES.....

Public officials shouldn't have any sort of discretionary spending accounts period. If they want to fund a pet project with tax payer money, they should go through an approvals process to do so.

3.4 million dollars could pay 68 individual salaries of $50,000 each. And with every one of these supervisors receiving 3.4M/year, well you figure out how many people that could pay, or services that wouldn't need to be cut, etc. etc. etc.

Who approved these accounts, who's supervising the supervisors? There are too many things happening in government today that the general public is unaware of and should be told.

It's a duck..........

Just curious.

Why does the L.A. Times online staff delete posts if the paper wants to actually allow its readers to provide feedback? I've had several posts deleted by the Times and I've said nothing vulgar or otherwise wrong.

As for this article, its a no brainer. The politicians were spending public money without any public awareness or input. AND.... its been going on for years right under the nose of the D.A's Office.

And the government wants to "manage" our health care. :)

Put those crooks in prison....good riddance...

About time! Please post where all this money went! I want to know who got the money and why?

This is one story to be watch for a conclusion. However, I think this will just become another incident that will be sweep under the rug and a few hands will be slapped. The next thing the supervisors will do is legislate themselves the right to spend discretionary tax money at will.
I just cant wait to hear the supervisors either plead ignorance or spout that their entitled to the money.

This spending didn't happen by accident. The Times should do a story on the history of discretionary spending by California politicians. I'm sure this kind of political entitlement of the tax payers money has been happening for decades.

I would think that his position alone would qualify Mr. Ridley-Thomas for a place in "Who's Who in Black Los Angeles" and to have to pay for it begs a number or questions as to the credibility of the publication itself, to what possible benefit it confers to the people of Los Angeles County, and to the extent of the ego that found it prudent to pay for this placement with public funds. Do politicians have any sense of shame or are they all just hopeless narcissists? (Rhetorical question - the answers are no and yes respectively.)

Wow,budget crisis and surprising information comes out.

I think they should also look at the city councilman's discretionary funds too!

I hope this effort is not just another waste of money. It sounds like this is something that was permitted, and that a policy change is in order. Don't commit a double waste of my money! Just fix the leak quickly, please. Don't drag this stuff on forever and then tell us, no law was broken since the policy is broken.

Hopefully the DA's office will conduct a clean investigation and won't hide any facts necessary to prosecute these scums.

Big Thanks to LA Time for comunicating to the citizens how they(LA Supervisors) expend the revenues.
I work three jobs and I am still no available to pay my bills.

Thank you,


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