Index
Thursday
Jul022015

L.A. CITY HALL: Los Angeles Department of Transportation, overtime reimbursement?: "Audit: L.A. failed to collect $1.8 million in overtime reimbursements" .... 

* Los Angeles Times:  "Audit:  L.A. failed to collect $1.8 million in overtime reimbursements" - From the LAT:

The white-gloved officers who guide Los Angeles drivers through traffic jams and road closures during Dodgers games, the Academy Awards and other special events earned nearly $6 million in overtime in a single year. In many cases, event sponsors are supposed to reimburse the city for those wages. But the city of Los Angeles failed to collect $1.8 million in 2013-14 because poor bookkeeping made it impossible to track how much money had been spent and how much was owed, according to an audit released Wednesday by City Controller Ron Galperin. 

Among the unpaid bills the city has identified and sent to a collection agency are charges for the Academy Awards, auditors found.  "Until last week, we were unaware of any unpaid invoices," an Academy spokesperson told The Times in an email. "We’re currently investigating the issue with the City of Los Angeles."

Overall, the Transportation Department's record-keeping for special events was "so shoddy that it's impossible for us to say things with certainty," Galperin spokesman Lowell Goodman said in an interview. In many cases, the Transportation Department and the Bureau of Street Services either never sent invoices or did not receive full payment from sponsors.  "I'm sure this is hard to imagine, for someone who manages her own bills, or car payments, or whatever," Goodman said. "They didn’t know what they were actually paying." 

The Transportation Department's general manager, Seleta Reynolds, said they now have a system that tracks overtime hours and reimbursements ......................

Thursday
Jul022015

POLITICS (State, Local/Bay Area): Berkeley balcony collapse, Contractors State License Board, Segue Construction, Inc.: "Agency overseeing Berkeley builder unaware of suits, settlements" ....

***Following up on earlier item noted here (Berkeley balcony collapse, prior lawsuits/claims against builder)....

* San Francisco Chronicle:  "Agency overseeing Berkeley builder unaware of suits, settlements" - From the Chronicle:

For more than a decade, the company that constructed the Berkeley apartment building where a balcony collapse killed six people was being targeted in lawsuits claiming its work was shoddy. It paid out $26.5 million in settlements in the past three years alone. And the state agency responsible for regulating the firm and renewing its license didn’t learn about any of it.

A gap in state law, a Chronicle investigation has found, allowed the millions of dollars in construction-defect settlements involving the Pleasanton contractor, Segue Construction Inc., to go unreported to the Contractors State License Board, the agency that oversees 300,000 contractors in California. “We didn’t know — that’s a problem,” said David Fogt, the board’s enforcement chief, who said his agency found out only after the June 16 collapse that Segue had a long history of construction-defect lawsuits. “Somebody has to let us know about it,” Fogt said. “It’s troubling that we didn’t. We had no prior complaints. There is nothing in place that would notify us of a lawsuit.”

Had the state known, Fogt said, it would have at least opened an investigation into Segue, and possibly taken action against the company’s contractor license.

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The defect suits and settlements date to before Segue built the apartment complex in downtown Berkeley where a fifth-floor balcony collapsed during a party. City inspectors found that moisture had rotted out the balcony’s support beams, just eight years after the building was completed.

Fogt said even the early suits against Segue — including one settled for $120,000 in 2004 over a town-house renovation project in Oakland — could have raised red flags about the company. “Any lawsuit that relates to allegedly defective work that results in the contractor paying damages would be of great interest to us,” Fogt said. Ultimately, he said, the state could well consider “if administrative action against the license is appropriate for consumer protection.”

Pressing for change

Contractors are not required to report anything to the state board besides a failure to adhere to a court judgment. As a result of the Berkeley collapse, Fogt said, he will press for changes that would mandate that contractors report settlements for construction defects to the board within 90 days. “This is a good example of why we need to fix it, so we can get notice sent to us,” Fogt said. “Perhaps this horrible tragedy will make that happen.” .........................

Thursday
Jul022015

LOCAL GOVERNMENT (City of L.A., County of L.A.): Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, mayoral candidacy?: "County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas isn't ruling out a run for L.A. mayor" ....

* Los Angeles Times:  "County Supervisor Mark  Ridley-Thomas isn't ruling out a run for L.A. mayor" - From the LAT:

Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said Wednesday he hasn’t ruled out a bid for mayor in 2017, raising the possibility of a major challenge to the incumbent, Eric Garcetti. Ridley-Thomas, who represents a swath of south Los Angeles County, made his statement in response to a question from The Times following an appearance at a swearing-in ceremony for newly installed Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson.

During the ceremony, the county supervisor identified a list of challenges that he said Harris-Dawson and other elected officials face. “We ought to be unsatisfied about homelessness in Los Angeles,” Ridley-Thomas told the crowd. “I think we ought to be unsatisfied about excessive use of force in Los Angeles. I believe we ought to do what we need to do to work on income inequality in Los Angeles. I think we have a lot of work to do.”

Asked after the ceremony whether he has ruled out a mayoral run in the next citywide election, Ridley-Thomas said, “No.” He declined to answer follow-up questions about when and how he will make a decision. “I’m not prepared to go beyond that at this point,” he said ...................

Thursday
Jul022015

L.A. CITY HALL: Mayor Erc Garcetti, homeless encampments, proposed new city legislation: "Garcetti says he didn't change course on homelessness laws" ....

***Following up on earlier item noted here (Mayor Eric Garcetti, homeless encampments, seizure of belongings)....

* Los Angeles Times:  "Garcetti says he didn't change course on homelessness laws" - From the LAT:

Mayor Eric Garcetti said Wednesday he didn't reverse course by backing away from controversial homelessness laws his office had signaled he would approve, asserting instead that a member of his communications staff mistakenly told The Times he planned to sign the ordinances.

Garcetti said in a brief interview at City Hall that he had always had reservations about the tough new laws, which would give police officers greater power to sweep the streets of homeless encampments. But his spokesman, Jeff Millman, erroneously said he would sign the legislation, according to the mayor. "Jeff told people without ever checking with me that, ‘Oh, he’s probably going to sign it,’" Garcetti said. "I never said that to staff, or internally."

Millman did not dispute the mayor's account of his miscommunication with the press. He said his previous statement that Garcetti would sign the ordinances "offered a preliminary view prior to (their) passage in council." .....................

 

Wednesday
Jul012015

POLITICS/BUSINESS (International, National): Tobacco industry, fight against antismoking laws: "U.S. Chamber of Commerce Works Globally to Fight Antismoking Measures" .... 

* New York Times:  "U.S. Chamber of Commerce Works Globally to Fight Antismoking Measures" - From the NYT:

KIEV, Ukraine — A parliamentary hearing was convened here in March to consider an odd remnant of Ukraine’s corrupt, pre-revolutionary government. Three years ago, Ukraine filed an international legal challenge against Australia, over Australia’s right to enact antismoking laws on its own soil. To a number of lawmakers, the case seemed absurd, and they wanted to investigate why it was even being pursued.

When it came time to defend the tobacco industry, a man named Taras Kachka spoke up. He argued that several “fantastic tobacco companies” had bought up Soviet-era factories and modernized them, and now they were exporting tobacco to many other countries. It was in Ukraine’s national interest, he said, to support investors in the country, even though they do not sell tobacco to Australia. Mr. Kachka was not a tobacco lobbyist or farmer or factory owner. He was the head of a Ukrainian affiliate of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, America’s largest trade group.

From Ukraine to Uruguay, Moldova to the Philippines, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and its foreign affiliates have become the hammer for the tobacco industry, engaging in a worldwide effort to fight antismoking laws of all kinds  . . . . . . . .

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Facing a wave of new legislation around the world, the tobacco lobby has turned for help to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, with the weight of American business behind it. While the chamber’s global tobacco lobbying has been largely hidden from public view, its influence has been widely felt .....................