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L.A.'s budget chief returns to work after nearly three weeks of rehab

April 15, 2010 |  9:36 am

The top budget advisor at Los Angeles City Hall returned to his post Thursday morning, nearly three weeks after he was arrested on suspicion of drunk driving.

City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana was back in his office one day after Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and the City Council ended their impasse over electric rate increases, which threatened to wreak financial havoc on the city's budget.

Santana was arrested March 26 while driving from a charity roast of Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley. Days later, he entered an alcohol treatment program, leaving the city's budget woes to Acting City Administrative Officer Ray Ciranna.

During Santana's absence, the politics surrounding the city budget seemed to spiral out of control. Villaraigosa and the Council feuded over electric rates, prompting the Department of Water and Power to withhold $73.5 million from the budget.

City Controller Wendy Greuel warned the city was in danger of running out of cash. Then the mayor threatened to shut down much of CIty Hall two days a week. By the time he dropped that notion, the city's budget woes had become national news. 

The standoff may be over, but another hurdle comes next week, when Villaraigosa is scheduled to release his budget for 2010-11. That budget must eliminate a shortfall of roughly $485 million, requiring reductions in various city services.

-- David Zahniser at Los Angeles City Hall