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Garcetti questions honesty of Greuel's audit claims

January 31, 2013 | 10:36 pm

Eric Garcetti

Los Angeles City Councilman Eric Garcetti continued to attack Controller Wendy Greuel, his rival for mayor, at a debate Thursday night in South Los Angeles, questioning the honesty of Greuel’s claim that she has uncovered $160 million in “waste, fraud and abuse” at City Hall. 

“And the numbers do have to add up,” Garcetti said at the debate at Ward AME Church, citing a report in The Times that questioned two of the audits, which contributed more than half of Greuel’s $160-million total. “If you are going to come at us today, let’s be honest about those numbers as well.”

Garcetti had first raised the issue earlier in the day at a news conference in which he said Greuel had exaggerated the potential benefit from her audits. He called the findings "flim-flam."

Greuel responded to the audience at the South L.A. church that she was “proud to be controller. And my numbers do add up.”

She called Garcetti’s claims part of “campaign silly season,” adding: “I am going to continue to be a tough city controller, even if they take on the messenger…. I will always do that, no matter what.”

The Times reported Thursday on two of Greuel's audits.

One suggested moving $24.7 million from the discretionary account of City Council members into the city's general fund. It was unclear how having the money in the control of individual council members -- who spent it for things such as graffiti removal, pocket parks and, occasionally, salaries for their staffs -- fit under Greuel's heading of "waste, fraud and abuse."

The other audit suggested the city had lost more than $80 million in past and future revenue on a contract with a private firm to install bus shelters, news stands and other so-called street furniture. While Greuel's auditors suggested $80 million as the total possible loss to the city, her own letter summarizing the audit conceded the city's revenue expectations had never been realistic.

In a news conference after the debate, Greuel stood behind a table piled with a stack of the 77 audits she said her office has performed since her 2009 election as controller. She reiterated, “I stand by my numbers,” while also acknowledging that she could not say how much of the $160 million could be recovered.

“What I have said is that some of the money may be recoverable, some has been lost,” Greuel said. “When they have stolen it, it’s going to be hard for me to get it back. Some of it is identified in ways in which we could have collected more money.”

Greuel said she considered the scrutiny of the audits surprising since they had all been sent to the City Council and mayor over the last three-plus years, without substantial complaint.


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-- James Rainey in South Los Angeles

Photo: Eric Garcetti, candidate for Los Angeles mayor

Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times