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Friday
Jun102011

COLISEUM COMMISSION: Investigators raid homes of two former Coliseum officials, serve search warrants issued by L.A. County D.A..... 

***Following up on its earlier coverage regarding issues relating to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, L.A. Times reports today that investigators from the L.A. County District Attorney's office last week raided the homes of former Coliseum general manager Patrick Lyn and former events manager Todd DeStefano....

* Los Angeles Times:  "Prosecutors raid homes of former Coliseum officials in ethics probe" - From the LAT:

   County prosecutors have raided the homes of two former administrators for the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum Commission, seizing computers, documents and other material in connection with a conflict-of-interest scandal surrounding the agency. Investigators for the Los Angeles County district attorney's office served search warrants last week at the residences of former General Manager Patrick Lynch and ex-events manager Todd DeStefano, attorneys for the two confirmed.

   The early morning searches indicated that authories had intensified a corruption invesetigation into dealings between DeStegano and companies that have done business with the Coliseum and companion Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena. They also marked the first time that investigators have demonsrated a clear interest in Lynch.

   An attorney for Lynch, Anthony Capozzola, said his client was not under suspicion and investigators were merely looking for information on DeStefano. He labeled the search "absolutely outrageous", saying Lynch had done nothing wrong and was prepared to cooperate in the investigation. "He has never been accused of one thing in his life," Capozzola said.

   Investigators briefly handcuffed DeStefano and his wife as they began the search, but Todd DeStefano's attorney, James Blatt, said "both sides were polite and cooperative." Blatt said DeStefano has committed no crime and had nothing to hide................

Friday
Jun102011

LOCAL GOVERNMENT: Vernon, city contracting, millions paid, family ties....

***Another report regarding the financial dealings in the city of Vernon, this time with a focus on the seeming importance of "family connections" in securing city business....

* Los Angeles Times:  "Vernon paid millions to firms connected to relatives of city officials, records show" - "In all, Vernon has employed at least a dozen family members of city officials, documents reviewed by The Times show, either directly at City Hall or through companies that have done business with the city." - From the LAT:

   The city of Vernon, already under fire for oversized salaries earned by some leaders, has paid millions of dollars in the last decade to private firms connected to relatives of top city officials, according to records reviewed by The Times.

   In all, Vernon has employed at least a dozen family members of city officials, the documents show, either directly at City Hall or through companies that have done business with the city. The most prominent cases involved the families of three former administrators: Bruce Malkenhorst, Eric Fresch and Donal O'Callaghan, who together had seven relatives working for one of the contractors.

   Details of the hirings are contained in thousands of pages of city financial records obtained from Vernon under the California Public Records Act. The state Legislature is now debating whether to disband the industrial city with a population of less than 100, which has been mired in allegations of corruption.........................

Friday
Jun102011

DOWNTOWN L.A.: Angel's Flight, new safety concerns, PUC orders immediate shutdown until repairs are made....

* Los Angeles Times: "Angel's Flight shut down by inspectors over damaged wheels" - From the LAT:

   State safety inspectors Thursday ordered the historic Angels Flight downtown to stop operating immediately because of deterioration to the wheels of the funicular railway. Inspectors for the California Public Utilities Commission discovered wheel flange damage during a routine inspection of the Los Angeles landmark. The flanges hold the cars’ wheels on the rails, the agency said in a statement.

   The operators of Angels Flight were ordered to determine the cause of the problems and make repairs before the railway can be reopened.

   ****

   The historic railway, which first opened in 1901 in a different location, was shut down in 2001 after the brakes failed on one car, which crashed into the other one, killing an 83-year-old passenger and injuring seven others. It reopened in March 2010.

***ALSO, Daily Breeze (AP): "Angel's Flight trolley ordered closed due to safety concerns"

[UPDATED] * Downtown News:  "Angels Flight Closes Again" - "Wear on Wheels Shuts Down Railway For a Month" - A little more than a year after reopening, Angles Flight is closing to make repairs. The railway that connects Bunker Hill and the Historic Core stopped taking passengers up and down the steep incline on Thursday, June 9. Angels Flight Railway Foundation President John Welborne said the move is because of excessive wear on the steel wheels of the cars Sinai and Olivet. In a statement, Welborne said he expects the railway to remain closed for the rest of the month while the wheels are replaced..............

Friday
Jun102011

L.A. CITY HALL: AEG/NFL stadium, L.A. City Planning Commission establishes special subcommittee; Daily News editorial....

* Daily News:  "Planning panel hikes NFL Stadium focus" - From the DN:

   The Los Angeles City Planning Commission on Thursday joined a list of city agencies devoting time and resources to evaluate developer AEG's proposed Farmers Field NFL stadium. While the NFL has not formally committed to returning to Los Angeles, the Planning Commission set up a subcommittee to look exclusively at the ambitious downtown project, which envisions a 70,000-seat stadium and new convention center hall.

   Commissioner Sean Burton, who will oversee the internal four-member group, said the sheer size and complexity of the project requires the city to give it special attention. The commission will be tasked with looking at how the various stages and elements of the project will be approved.

   ****

   At Thursday's hearing, community advocate Noel Weiss questioned the subcommittee and the resources extended by the commission. "This takes precedence over critical policy issues the city isn't dealing with," said Weiss, who requested that Planning Commission subcommittees be created to study issues like affordable housing and density. 

   The Planning Commission is among numerous city agencies studying the project. . . . . .

   ****

   While the city is publicly committed to discussing a new stadium, last week AEG President and CEO Tim Lieweke suggested in an interview with the LA Times that the stadium deal could fall apart unless the city signs a memorandum of understanding by August. A source says the comments made by Lieweke, who is apparently not satisfied with the pace of the progress, "were intended to move the city along."

   Eva Kandarpa Behrend, spokeswoman for City Councilwoman Jan Perry whose district is in the project area, said she expects the memorandum to be presented to the Ad Hoc Committee by July.

* Daily News (editorial):  "AEG shouldn't be able to throw flag on LA officials for delay of stadium" - From the DN:

   The developer of a proposed downtown football stadium is trying to put pressure on Los Angeles officials. Last week he threatened to call off the project unless the City Council approves a basic plan before its August break. Now city officials ought to push back - and indicate they won't budge unless it's a deal the city can afford.

   Indeed, if Anschutz Entertainment Group CEO and President Tim Leiweke sounded impatient, maybe that's a good thing. It might be a sign City Hall is taking its job seriously, slowing down to be sure the stadium's public costs won't exceed its benefits.

   ****

   The benefits could be great: The fun of professional football for the first time since the Rams and Raiders left town in 1995. Jobs and other economic boosts. Expanded convention facilities. But the costs could be huge as well: Traffic. A strain on law enforcement. Direct expense for taxpayers if AEG is not held to its promise to use stadium revenue to repay the $350 million in municipal bonds it is requesting to rebuild the Convention Center's West Hall, and loss of convention income while that work is completed.

   Putting it all together, we're not yet fans nor foes of AEG's stadium plan. We're in favor only if it's a good deal for the citizens of L.A. For that, we can wait a little longer.

Friday
Jun102011

POLITICS/DEVELOPMENT: Advanced Development and Investment (ADI), subcontractor alleges diversion of L.A. affordable housing funds to remodel Glendale councilman's home....

***Latest news regarding the ADI (Advanced Development and Investment Inc.) scandal relating to allegations of fraud in connection with affordable housing funds....

* Los Angeles Times:  "Subcontractor says L.A. affordable-housing funds were diverted to remodel Glendale councilman's home" - "The allegation involves Advanced Development & Investment, which has been accused by its own overseer of defrauding L.A., Glendale and other agencies of $134 million as it built subsidized housing." - From the LAT:

  Money intended for the construction of a Los Angeles affordable-housing project instead was diverted to pay for a high-end renovation of a Glendale city councilman's condominium, according to a subcontractor who worked on both jobs.

   Ronald Chamberlain, owner of D & A Coating & Restoration of Fullerton, told The Times the FBI took records involving his work at the home of John Drayman, who lost his reelection bid for the Glendale City Council in April. He said agents also questioned him about Drayman.

   Drayman voted between 2007 and 2011 to provide $30.6 million in subsidies to three ADI projects in Glendale, one of which was never built. By Chamerlain's account, his company performed roughly $8,000 worth of work on Drayman's home at the direction of an ADI manager. Chamberlain said he relayed the account he gave The Times to the FBI. He said half of his company's work, or roughly $4,000, was paid for an account devoted to Manitou Vistas II, a 21-unit apartment complex built in Lincoln Heights with $1.5 million in financial assistance from the city of Los Angeles. He also estimated the total remodeling cost on Drayman's condominium was $200,000.

   "I was told not to submit any paperwork -- no invoices, no emails with [Drayman's] address on them -- that they would take care of it later," Chamberlain said.  Chamberlain said ADI failed to pay him $150,000 he was owed on various jobs, which contributed to the demise of his company.

   A second subcontractor, who declined to be named out of fear of angering federal investigators, said he also met with FBI agents to discuss the Drayman remodel. FBI agents to discuss the Drayman remodel.

   ****
   Chamberlain said former ADI manager Khachik Zargarian, known by the nickname "K", told him to work on Drayman's home. Zargarian described the project as involving a "very special friend" of the company, according to Chamberlain's account...................