In what appears to be a sharp turnaround from a standard union position, the Los Angeles Police Protective League is telling the city to stop hiring new officers, and instead, pay its existing members more overtime.
In an interview and article submitted to the Los Angeles Times, union president Paul M. Weber is asking the city to not replace retiring or resigning police officers. Weber’s reasoning for his suggestion is that officers used to earn as much as an additional 50 percent compensation for overtime work. Ever since the financial crisis hit the city two years ago, officers are now required to take time off as compensation for scheduled overtime.
Matt Szabo, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s deputy chief of staff said, “It’s hard to imagine how the union is motivated here by the public’s safety.” Since Villaraigosa was elected and began increasing the headcount of police officers, crime has fallen significantly. Despite the city’s extreme financial crisis, the mayor is committed to hiring more officers to maintain the level that it’s been at since he took office.
The union says that the money would be better spent on fewer officers and allowing them to routinely rack up overtime, and hiring civilian workers to do office jobs that police officers are currently handling.
Not mentioned by either party is the issue of overtime and how it affects the retirement pay of those officers about to retire. Since overtime is used in the calculation that fixes the base salary for purposes of retirement pay, critics say that the department routinely funneled overtime assignments to officers in the final year before their retirement, in order to boost their retirement benefits by as much as 20 to 30 percent.
Los Angeles Times
Helping kick off the holiday shopping season, L.A. has upped the cost of a jaywalking ticket to $190. Police claim that the increase is intended to discourage criminals and prevent accidents. An LAPD spokesperson said, “This is about preventing thefts and robberies. Jaywalking is often done by thieves, purse snatchers and robbery suspects to target their victims.”
Los Angeles, like many other cities, has been boosting the cost of tickets during the nation’s economic downturn, apparently insensitive to the economic woes of its residents. The cost of a parking ticket has increased 25% since 2008 to $50, and tickets for minor infractions such as a broken tail light, have doubled.
Police have not commented on whether those increases are intended to reduce crime.
Los Angeles Downtown News
Two employees of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power department have been charged by authorities of using the utilitity’s employee credit cards for bogus purchases between 2003 and 2009 in the amount of over $3 million. Felony charges were filed Thursday against the men for conflict of interest, misappropriation of public funds and conspiracy.
Anthony Carone, 45, a plumbing supervisor and Akbar Fonooni, 55, a fire protection engineer, were involved in the fraudulent arrangement. The men set up “dummy” corporations through which they would purchase goods and equipment at inflated prices, and then pocket the difference. Another man, Troy Mitchell Holt, a friend of Carone was also charged as being a middleman for at least $1.4 million in purchases.
Corone was arrested at his home in La Verne and taken into custody. Fonooni has since left the country and is believed to be in Tehran.
Los Angeles Times
Top Cop in Bell Scandal
Police union leaders in Bell, California are asking the county district attorney’s office look deeper into its own department. Kurt Owens, vice president of the Bell Police Officers Association, contends that members of his department knew for years about corruption centered on abusive towing practices and possible involvement in voter fraud, but supervisors did nothing about it.
Owens claims that he went to the DA’s office and the FBI on a number of issues and was told, “Bring us more evidence.” Only after the Los Angeles Times began to publish the results of their own investigation of widespread fraud in Bell, government agencies began taking action. Read more
More than a year before the Bell, California corruption scandal hit the national news in July, three Bell police officers were trying to convince the Los Angeles County district attorney’s investigators to look into a number of illegal practices they observed first-hand while working for the city.
The three officers include James Corcoran, who retired in April, Sgt. Art Jimenez, and one other who has requested anonymity because he is currently involved in the investigation. Corcoran has since filed a whistleblower suit against the city.
After the officers met with the county district attorney’s office March 2009, investigators requested more information, even suggesting confirmation of potential abuses from city officials, some of whom were believed by the officers to be involved in the illegal activities. According to Corcoran, “my thinking was, OK, what am I, chopped liver? Here we are, three cops, asking for help, and they want our allegations substantiated by an elected official? As you know, an elected official is often part of the corruption.”
The district attorney’s office headed by Steve Cooley, a candidate for state attorney general on Nov. 2, didn’t ever get back to the three officers Read more
Charges have been filed against Irwindale officials in connection with lavish personal travel expenses paid by the city, ostensibly for attempting to get the city higher bond ratings. Councilman Mark Breceda, retired City Manager Steve Blancarte, finance director Abe De Dios and former Councilwoman Rosemary Ramirez are accused of travelling to New York and charging the city for Broadway shows, sporting events, limousine rides, five-star restaurants and luxury hotels.
The four are accused of misappropriating public funds for expensive activities that had nothing to do with city business, according to the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office. Officials spent $205,678 on five trips to New York between 2001 and 2005 according to records obtained by the Los Angeles Times. “Mostly they partied quite a bit,” said Los Angeles County Deputy Dist. Atty. Nipa Cook. “When it comes to public funds there has to be a public purpose…. It wasn’t a business dinner or business lunch.”
The information was revealed as part of a Times investigation of communities throughout the State of California who routinely ignored laws to build affordable housing, while squandering hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayers monies. Irwindale managed to build or rehabilitate only about 100 homes over eight years, but spent about $87 million in public housing funds over that period.
Los Angeles Times