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Villaraigosa nominates aide to take over embattled L.A. transportation agency

June 3, 2011 | 10:26 am

Photo: Mayor Villaraigosa last month. Credit: Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa on Friday nominated his deputy of transportation -- Jaime de la Vega -- to lead the city's embattled Department of Transportation.

Villaraigosa also temporarily assigned LAPD Commander Michael C. Williams to "oversee the reformation of the parking enforcement division," according to a statement.

The transportation department has come under intense scrutiny over the past few months, partly prompted by two audits by L.A. City Controller Wendy Greuel.

The audits claimed that lax oversight and the department's inability to enforce some of its own policies, among other factors, led to millions of dollars in missed revenue opportunities for the department.

Another audit showed that the department was paying its ticket-processing contractor to process citations even when they had been invalidated because of an error.

That audit also highlighted a little-known Gold Card Desk that was created so elected officials and their aides could fast-track parking citation reviews for their constituents. Greuel said that 1,000 tickets had been dismissed through that service -- some without justification -- in a single two-year period.

While some at City Hall said the Gold Card service was comparable to other constituent services, Greuel argued that lax oversight and sparse documentation for tickets processed through the program could have opened the door for special treatment.

Villaraigosa ordered the desk closed the day after the audit's findings were announced, saying that even the appearance of preferential treatment is unacceptable.

Greuel pledged to do a full investigation of the 1,000 dismissed tickets and earlier this week served the transportation department with a subpoena. She said transportation officials had stalled in providing full and immediate access to documents regarding the Gold Card Desk and the dismissed tickets.

Some had thought interim General Manager Amir Sedadi would take the lead post at the transportation department, but Sedadi will remain an assistant general manager.

In a statement, Villaraigosa said De la Vega "has the leadership, management ability, and dedication to the City of Los Angeles to successfully lead the Department of Transportation."

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-- Ari Bloomekatz

Photo: Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa last month. Credit: Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times