Embattled L.A. housing agency's interim chief steps down
The head of Los Angeles’ embattled housing authority stepped down Thursday, following a firestorm of controversy over spending practices on meals, travel and other activities.
Ken Simmons, the interim president and chief executive of the agency, left in the wake of KCET-TV’s “SoCal Connected” report on expensive restaurant tabs, and amid increasing scrutiny from City Controller Wendy Greuel, who has been auditing travel expenses.
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa was in Asia but his office released a letter acknowledging Simmons’ departure. In it, the mayor said the reports of extravagant spending had dealt the agency a “serious blow.”
“Although I know that you are deeply committed to the housing authority’s priorities, it is clear that a decisive break with past policies and practices is necessary,” he wrote. “For this reason, I appreciate your decision to step down as interim president and CEO of [the housing authority] to allow new leadership….”
The departure comes nine months after Villaraigosa’s appointees at the housing authority fired Simmons’ predecessor, Rudy Montiel. Over the last six weeks, that same board agreed to provide Montiel with a departure package of nearly $1.2 million.
Deputy Mayor Sarah Sheahan said the resignation was at the mayor’s request.
In an email to the housing authority’s board, Simmons said that he never expected that, as the temporary top executive, he would “be required to address so many issues relating to the past president and CEO.”
“I believe that I have made significant improvements in the agency's relationships with these communities as well as our sister agencies. I look forward to continuing this work,” he wrote. “However, I did not realize that these many issues would dominate so much of my time and energy and believe I could best serve the agency in my former capacity.”
-- David Zahniser at Los Angeles City Hall
Photo: Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa wrote that "a decisive break with past policies and practices is necessary." Credit: Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times