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Feds probe nearly $1 million in payments by Coliseum officials

January 31, 2012 | 10:02 am

L.A. Coliseum Commission meeting
Investigators for the U.S. Labor Department are looking into cash advances made by Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum officials to a union representative, sources said.

The investigators have asked the Coliseum Commission for information on about nearly $1 million in payments given during the last several years to a representative for the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, according to the sources, who requested anonymity because they are not authorized to speak.

The cash was supposed to cover wages for union stagehands who work on events at the stadium and companion Sports Arena, officials said. But the Coliseum imposed no controls over where the money ended up, according to the officials.

Invoice reports that The Times obtained under the California Public Records Act show that the payments -– sometimes delivered in suitcases packed with $100 bills -– were made from at least March 2006 through February 2011.

The payments were for rave concerts, Cinco de Mayo performances, a mixed martial arts production and a Lakers NBA championship celebration, among other Coliseum bookings. Over the last year, The Times has published a series of reports on financial irregularities at the Coliseum.

The resulting scandal remains the subject of a district attorney’s investigation and has led to the departure of former Coliseum General Manager Patrick Lynch, ex-Finance Director Ronald Lederkramer and others.

An internal commission audit started to focus on the cash advances in response to a Times’ Public Records Act filing in September for material on the Coliseum’s failure to make required contributions to employee retirement accounts.

The Coliseum hired the stagehands under a union contract that mandated the retirement contributions. It is unclear whether those contributions were made when the workers were paid in cash.

In addition, the Coliseum could owe hundreds of thousands of dollars in unpaid payroll taxes, according to a lawsuit the commission has filed against Lynch, former events manager Todd DeStefano and two rave companies.

The suit does not name the stagehands union or any of its representatives. It alleges that Lynch, DeStefano and unidentified promoters “caused or made” the cash payments. Lynch, DeStefano and the rave companies have denied doing anything wrong in their dealings at the Coliseum.

Officials for the stagehands union have not responded to interview requests.


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Photo: A Los Angeles Coliseum Commission meeting in November. Credit: Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times.