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L.A. elected officials say they weren't told of bribery case

October 17, 2011 |  1:12 pm

Photo: Eun Chavis, convicted in a LA city bribery scandal, appears with her attorney Matt Kohn for sentencing in the Criminal Courts courtroom of Judge Edmund Willcox Clarke Jr. Oct. 4. Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times
Two elected officials at Los Angeles City Hall called Monday for an explanation of how a clerk in the city’s housing department allegedly managed to secure bribes from multiple landlords while working behind the counter at the agency’s Koreatown office.

Los Angeles City Controller Wendy Greuel sent a letter to the City Council on Monday saying it was “unacceptable” that her office had not been notified of the criminal case against     Eun Chavis, details of which were reported in The Times on Sunday. In that case, Chavis was accused of demanding tens of thousands of dollars from Korean-speaking landlords who sought to resolve their problems with city inspectors or obtain permits for new construction.

“In order for my staff to guard taxpayer dollars, departments must be required to report any and all instances of fraud, waste and abuse so that I can closely monitor the city’s resources to stop these egregious acts and ensure they are not repeated in other departments,” she wrote.

Greuel, a candidate for mayor, sent her letter one day before the City Council is scheduled to vote on a proposal to require every department at City Hall to inform the controller’s office of incidents involving “waste, fraud and abuse.” She said the case pointed out the need for the council to draft a new law requiring notification of such cases.

The Times reported that Chavis, 58, was charged with 11 counts of commercial bribery last year and pleaded no contest to a single felony count. She served less than a month in jail and spent the rest of her sentence at home with a monitoring bracelet, said Deputy Dist. Atty. Dana Aratani.

Police alleged Chavis demanded $43,000 from her victims in exchange for resolving problems with their properties, according to public records.

Housing officials said Chavis was the only employee involved in the bribery scheme. They also said they took the case seriously from the beginning, reassigning Chavis after the victims came forward and firing her before she was arrested. Once she was charged, housing officials held a new round of ethics training and rotated some of the employees behind the counter, said Roberto Aldape, the agency’s assistant general manager.

Nevertheless, council members Ed Reyes and Jan Perry -- both of whom serve on the council’s Housing and Economic Development Committee -- said they were disappointed that no one from the housing department informed them of the case.

Perry, also a mayoral candidate, said it was “pretty pathetic” that she learned about the allegations against Chavis from The Times and said she planned to introduce a motion seeking answers about the case.

“You would think that with something as significant as this, someone in the hierarchy of the department would have felt compelled to inform the elected officials on the record,” she said.


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-- David Zahniser at Los Angeles City Hall

Photo: Eun Chavis in Los Angeles County Superior Court on Oct. 4. Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times