Saturday, May 21, 2011

CBS 2 VIDEO REPORT & L.A. Times Report: Los Angeles Mayoral Candidate Wendy Greuel Under Fire for "Gold Card" Ticket Fix Controversy

[Pictured: Los Angeles Mayoral Candidate Wendy Greuel, as City Councilmember who says, "I COULDN'T have known what that "Gold Card" paperwork meant. My eyes were closed when I read it."]

Mayor Antonio Villaragiosa and Councilmember Wendy Greuel may have been allies in helping each other get elected (Wendy supported Villar for re-election, and he supported her for City Controller), but looks like there has been a parting of the political ways. THIS VIDEO SAYS TO ME, AUSTIN BEUTNER IS THE CITY HALL "ANOINTED & BACKED" candidate in the 2013 L.A. City mayoral election. And Wendy just got her first taste of political operative style smack down. (Big "no-no" to throw everyone else under the bus, just cause you need some political rabbits to pull out of the hat to show cameras -- SINCE YOU ARE RUNNING FOR MAYOR. (City Hall: +1 Wendy: -1 Eric Garcetti: +/-0. Eric isn't Austin Beutner, so he isn't being backed by the City Hall crowd. Eric is independent, and on his own, too. But he isn't as careless as Wendy.)

CBS 2 / KCAL 9 Los Angeles 0:45

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's office says Wendy Greuel knew about the "Gold Card" plan and even voted for it when she was a councilwoman in 2006.

[Her only defense, based on her response in this video, is that she admits that she doesn't know what the hell she has in front of her that she is voting on. Listen carefully, and think about it. ME, I personally think she was aware and is just more full of sh*t than she is naive. Either way, BAD COUNCILMEMBER=BAD CONTROLLER=BAD MAYOR. (I'll leave BAD SANTA to Billy Bob.)

The mayor's office disputed City Controller Wendy Greuel's assertion that she didn't know about the Gold Card program before the audit, saying that her former council office had used the service. (Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times / May 19, 2011)

By Ari Bloomekatz, Los Angeles Times

May 21, 2011
A day after Los Angeles officials publicly disclosed the existence of a little-known parking citation system that had long been available to the mayor and City Council, the program came to a swift end Friday.

On the heels of an audit in which City Controller Wendy Greuel singled out the ticket review program for its lax oversight and potential for misuse, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa called for an immediate end to it.

"Discontinue the Gold Card Desk immediately," Villaraigosa directed in a letter to the city transportation department's interim general manager, Amir Sedadi. [VILLARAIOGSA ADDED, "I'm not running for anything anymore, I don't need the program, anymore.] The mayor also told Sedadi to "establish a uniform system accessible to everyone for contested parking citation intake and adjudication."

Although aides to Villaraigosa acknowledged that some office staff had used the Gold Card Desk to help constituents, the mayor's letter stated that "every member of the public deserves equal treatment and even the appearance of preferential treatment is unacceptable."

The transportation department released a statement Friday saying Sedadi had "already taken action to discontinue the Gold Card Desk" and that his staff was working with the contractor running the program "to create a plan in line with the mayor's request."

Other officials at City Hall vowed to investigate the desk as well.


City Councilman Dennis Zine, head of the council's Audit and Governmental Efficiency Committee, said he would bring up the issue at Tuesday's committee meeting. "I've got some serious questions about the documentation, who's making the requests, and whether the requests are justified," Zine said. "We need to get all the answers so there's transparency." [DENNIS ZINE: HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN COUNCILMAN? AND YOU WANT TO RUN FOR CONTROLLER, NEXT? Sounds like you'd be PERFECT!]

According to Greuel's audit, the roughly 20-year-old special program was designed to allow aides to the mayor and City Council to expedite parking citation reviews for constituents and possibly have fines reduced or eliminated.

Greuel's audit found that about 1,000 citations over two years had been dismissed through the desk — some without justification and others with dubious explanations.

The Times inspected a sampling of the citations Friday and found that some bore little or no explanation for dismissal.

The majority of the documents were emails to the Gold Card Desk with the name of the sender blacked out. Some of the citation appeals listed an "importance" level as "high" and most contained only brief descriptions and requests for fine waivers or reductions.

"For the above citation, please waive the penalties and issue a refund in the amount of $80 to the citizen. No proof of payment is necessary," one correspondence said.

Another had only citation numbers and a directive to refund $50 and cancel the scheduled appeals hearing.

In his letter to Sedadi, Villaraigosa said he also asked Greuel to hire an independent consultant to conduct a "top to bottom management review" of the transportation department, which has been targeted by Greuel in recent audits.

The first, published in April, showed that the department missed up to $15 million in revenue because the department had gone easy on chronic scofflaws who racked up multiple unpaid parking tickets. Last week's audit was the second, and Greuel — a possible candidate for mayor when Villaraigosa is termed out in 2013 — chastised the Gold Card Desk because there were "no specific policies to guide the review of these citations," opening the door for "inappropriate cancellations."

A plastic parking bureau Gold Card was apparently distributed to city offices and included a special phone number for a holder who had an "urgent need to resolve any parking citation matter which requires special attention." The card promised that "you will be immediately connected to our Gold Card Specialist."

The audit also found that the transportation department pays the ticket-handling contractor, Affiliated Computer Services, to process citations even when they have been voided because of a mistake or error, and that it failed to aggressively pursue collections from vehicles used by public safety employees with "protective plates" such as firefighters and police officers.

The audit Thursday also touched off some political sparks as aides in the mayor's office challenged Greuel's claim that the former council member had only learned about the program during the audit.

The mayor's office released information that Greuel's former council office had used the service and in an email argued she was "fully aware of the Gold Card Desk."

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