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L.A. councilman wants explanation for big payout to ex-official

December 6, 2011 |  2:20 pm

Rudolf Montiel in 2007. Credit: Los Angeles Times
Los Angeles City Councilman Dennis Zine called Tuesday for a special meeting with the city’s lawyers -- behind closed doors if necessary -- to get an explanation for the $1.2-million payout to the fired ex-chief of the city’s Housing Authority, Rudy Montiel.

On Sunday, The Times reported that the payout had been quietly approved by appointees of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. In a motion introduced on the council floor, Zine said he also wants officials with the Housing Authority, which oversees shelter for 60,000 of the city’s neediest families, to explain the agency’s ballooning travel costs and taxpayer-funded tabs at four-star restaurants.

In a statement, Zine said the Housing Authority had shown a “total disregard” for the communities it served, including L.A.’s most vulnerable residents.

The Housing Authority’s expenses have been under scrutiny by City Controller Wendy Greuel, who is conducting an audit of travel costs, and by a recent KCET-TV “SoCal Connected” which found dozens of meal tabs costing $500 or more -– some at such pricey spots at Bottega Louie, The Farm of Beverly Hills and Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse.

Greuel called last week for a more wide-ranging audit of the Housing Authority, saying that she was troubled by the agency’s expensive meals, costly floral arrangements and a tripling of its travel budget between 2006 and 2009 -- from $100,000 to $300,000. Mitch Kamin, president of the Housing Authority’s board, said he supported such a move.

Over the last six weeks, the Housing Authority paid a $540,000 severance to Montiel, who was fired in March. Kamin and his fellow board members also agreed to provide a $645,000 settlement to end a legal claim in which Montiel alleged that he faced retaliation for reporting on illegal activities by housing board members.

Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley is investigating whether board members violated conflict of interest laws or engaged in the practice of “double dipping” -- getting reimbursed twice for the same expense.

Before his firing, Montiel had a compensation package of roughly $450,000, which included a housing allowance and 10 weeks of vacation.

RELATED:

Housing authority fires CEO

Housing board welcomes city audit

D.A. investigates housing board president

-- David Zahniser at Los Angeles City Hall

Photo: Former Los Angeles Housing Authority chief Rudy Montiel in 2007. Credit: Los Angeles Times

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