Delay of Coliseum-USC vote urged as stadium exec is investigated
Amid a state investigation of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum's top executive, Coliseum Commission member and City Councilman Bernard C. Parks demanded that the panel delay a Monday vote on surrendering stewardship of the public stadium to USC.
Parks is also asking for an investigation by the district attorney’s office.
The Times reported in Friday’s editions that California's political watchdog agency is probing whether Coliseum Interim General Manager John Sandbrook illegally sought a job with USC even as he was responsible for protecting taxpayers in talks to hand over the historic 88-year-old stadium to the private university.
“In light of today’s revelations … I am insisting that Monday’s scheduled vote with the University of Southern California be delayed until this inquiry is resolved,” said Parks, a critic of the USC deal, in a letter to fellow commissioners.
“Being accused of illegally seeking a job with USC while negotiating the proposed lease is a serious charge, especially because it could be considered a felony and fall under the jurisdiction of the District Attorney’s Public Integrity Unit,” Parks wrote.
Parks also noted that questionable Coliseum spending, also reported by The Times, continued to occur on Sandbrook's watch. Such expenditures included payments to the Coliseum’s chief finance officer, Ronald Lederkramer, to cover most of the costs of a leased Jaguar. Lederkramer later came under fire for charging the public for gas fill-ups for his Coliseum car, even though his job required little driving, and earning hundreds of thousands of Visa reward points by making government purchases on his personal credit card.
“I have gone on record demanding the resignation of Mr. Sandbrook, partly because I believe he has been more of an advocate for USC than for the Coliseum during the lease process and also because of his inaction during the venue’s current financial scandal,” Parks wrote.
“This morning’s article highlights his lax oversight of luxury car leases and improper gas card and credit card use by Coliseum employees. But, in my view, what was most embarrassing was his unwavering protection of … Lederkramer, who signed a lot of the checks associated with the scandal,” Parks said, adding that Sandbrook approved a 17% raise for Lederkramer last summer before it was quickly rescinded.
Sandbrook was hastily hired in March 2011 by commissioners seeking an interim leader after the ouster of longtime General Manager Patrick Lynch, who has since pleaded guilty to conflict of interest in the Coliseum corruption case and has pledged to return $385,000 he received as alleged kickbacks from a stadium janitorial contractor.
Sandbrook, 63, a retired University of California administrative manager, was recruited for the job by his old college friend, county Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky. At the time, commissioners said he was hired for his unfailing honesty. Sandbrook earns $208,000 a year from the Coliseum, and his annual UC pension gives him an additional $183,000.
--- Rong-Gong Lin II and Paul Pringle
Photo: John Sandbrook in July 2011. Credit: Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times