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Vernon officials subpoenaed as state widens investigation into high salaries

October 21, 2010 | 10:33 am

The newest subpoenas announced Thursday for Vernon officials expands the state attorney general's probe into the industrial city and now includes an investigation into travel expenses, pensions and payments made by the city to a company run by a top official's wife.

The subpoena issued by Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown requires the city to designate one or more persons to answer questions about excessive salaries and other benefits for top city officials. The highly-compensated officials include former city attorney Eric T. Fresch, former city administrator Donal O'Callaghan, finance director Roirdan S. Burnett, former city attorney Jeffrey Harrison, former city administrator Bruce Malkenhorst Sr. and former city clerk Bruce Malkenhorst Jr.

Brown has already subpoenaed records from Vernon, which is a city with fewer than 100 residents just south of downtown Los Angeles. It is comprised largely of industrial businesses.

In addition to excessive salaries, The Times reported that city officials, including Fresch, traveled lavishly at taxpayer expense. In one short trip to New York in February 2007, O'Callaghan, Fresch and a financial advisor flew first-class to New York for a combined cost of more than $12,700. The records show Fresch routinely commuted from his home in the San Francisco Bay Area to L.A. first-class for more than $931 per round trip. In a few instances, he spent more than $1,100 for the relatively short air commute.

The Times also reported that O'Callaghan received $243,898 in consulting payments through Tara Energy Inc., a company headed by his wife. After that the report, the district attorney's office launched an investigation, which led to his indictment Tuesday on conflict of interest charges.

-- Sam Allen