Southern California -- this just in

« Previous Post | L.A. NOW Home | Next Post »

Vernon's city attorney to leave post

The city of Vernon, facing scrutiny by the state attorney general and Los Angeles County prosecutor, is parting ways with its city attorney, who has been conducting an internal probe of one of its top officials' financial dealings.

Neither City Atty. Laurence S. Wiener nor City Administrator Mark C. Whitworth would spell out the reasons for the abrupt change, which takes effect Nov. 1 and comes amid revelations in The Times of lavish salaries, benefits and expenses enjoyed by top Vernon officials.

Just two months ago, Vernon officials praised the work of Wiener’s firm in the city’s efforts toward greater transparency.

That endorsement followed reports in The Times that some Vernon officials were paid more than $1 million a year and that administrator Donal O’Callaghan had received consulting fees through his wife’s company. O’Callaghan was placed on paid leave in late August after The Times inquired about $243,898 he received in consulting payments from the city through the first half of this year, in addition to his regular annual salary of more than $380,000.

Billed at $300 for each “extra” hour he worked, the $243,898 was paid through Tara Energy Inc., a company headed by Kimberly McBride O'Callaghan, records show. At the time, Vernon officials could not explain that arrangement and said they had instructed Wiener to conduct a “comprehensive review” of the city’s financial dealings with the couple.

O'Callaghan was city administrator and director of light and power until July 21, when he stepped down to become head of capital projects for Vernon’s municipal power plant. The Los Angeles County district attorney’s office said last month that it would investigate the contract to see whether it represented a conflict of interest.

The state attorney general has launched a broader investigation of Vernon city government, serving a subpoena for a wide variety of records. Despite leaving Vernon, Wiener said he expects to complete his review before the end of the month, when Vernon City Clerk Willard Yamaguchi will become interim city attorney while Vernon officials seek a replacement. Wiener’s firm, Richards, Watson & Gershon, represents more than two dozen other Southern California cities and public agencies. Wiener also is Beverly Hills’ city attorney.

In an open letter to Vernon businesses Aug. 24, Whitworth lauded Richards, Watson & Gershon as “one of the state’s pre-eminent public agency law firms," citing it as part of the city’s efforts toward “moving forward and eliminating some practices of the past.” What has changed between then and now is unclear, and neither side would say.

Wiener referred questions about the shakeup to Vernon officials. Whitworth also declined to discuss Wiener’s departure but described it as “a mutual decision.” He issued a statement expressing appreciation to Wiener and the firm, which “oversaw the implementation of numerous important changes to city governance.”

One of the most significant changes during Wiener’s stint was the elimination of a two-tiered salary structure that had allowed O’Callaghan and other top officials to bill for extra hours worked –- an arrangement equivalent to overtime that is unusual for salaried workers and all but unheard of in the public sector.

-- Kim Christensen, Sam Allen and Hector Becerra

Comments () | Archives (4)

it will take a while, but they will all go down.... i hope the lawyers tear em up

Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (DWP) did not employ the same scheme in salary and benefits manipulation done by City of Bell to enrich the powers that be at the top. In a larger organization, like DWP, too many hands could spoil the broth, as the saying goes. Yet, DWP's scheme is much more versatile like octopus tentacles extending everywhere and much wider impact to the public and taxpayers.
The way DWP is doing is through contract bid rigging with outside vendors. The audit director is part of their cover up. His role is just like a decorative manequin in order to give semblance that there exist check and balances, when everything is theatrical and stage played, like he would show some small useless audit finding but hide or suppressed the big audit findings to benefit the people at the top.
That's how corruptions is given its vicious cycle longetivity. You got to be an insider to believe it!!!
Bell is only a mosquito when compared to LA Department of Water & Power (DWP), which is not only a milking cow, but a milking jumbo elephant. All the issues reported in Bell apply to DWP. But Bell now sends a shock waves to all other cities and its officials who think they're untouchables.
While Bell's officials use salary and benefits to enrich themselves; DWP make use vendors' contract to enrich themselves. While Bell's officials use illegally bloated taxes to fund their pockets; DWP periodically increases its water and power rates billed against LA city and county consumers to fund overbillings by contract vendors, wastage, and losses - - cost and expenses of corruptions, all becoming part of and priced into as regular cost component of water and power rates charged against Los Angeles consumers.
These were made possible because the audit director James Tan is part of the entire corruption!

The corruption by the city officials of Vernon make the city of Bell look like amateurs. This little family run kingdom has ripped off millions from mostly business taxes and was run as efficiently as any mafia family in Sicily.

O'Callaghan, interest along with Mr. Fresch is to take over if they haven't already the power plant.
There is ONLY 3 City of Venon employees renting the City housing. All others renters are family members from the council members and attorney Mr.Fresch and employeess from one of the councils car-wash business.
O'Callaghan and Mr. Fresch are no different from Mr. Rizzo. Perhaps the reason attorney Laurence S. Wiener,decided to leave is that he wants no part of the City Agenda to hide or keep silent of the findings.
A message to O'Callaghan the City employees don't want you back. You lied to them to benefit yourself and your wifes pocket. You can not be trusted.


Recommended on Facebook


In Case You Missed It...


About L.A. Now
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.
Have a story tip for L.A. Now?
Please send to newstips@latimes.com
Can I call someone with news?
Yes. The city desk number is (213) 237-7847.


Get Alerts on Your Mobile Phone

Sign me up for the following lists: