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Jackson memorial costs, payment disputed

July 8, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
The security and other costs for the Michael Jackson memorial will be several million dollars. How it will be paid for is a sticky issue because of L.A.'s budget problems. At City Hall, some officials are calling for an investigation. AEG, owner of the Staples Center, organized the event, distributed the tickets and set up satellite viewing sites.

But it was city police who checked tickets as fans streamed into the memorial. It was the California Highway Patrol who cleared freeways for the Jackson family procession, and city sanitation crews who afterward cleaned it all up.

City Councilman Dennis Zine thinks the promoters, not the city, should pay for those expenses.

"This particular memorial for Michael Jackson is costing the taxpayers -- whether it be $2 million or $4 million -- it's costing millions of dollars, that is the concern that I have," said Zine Wednesday. "And AEG is responsible for this situation and this memorial should not be at the back of the taxpayers."

Wednesday, Zine called for a thorough audit of all costs related to the memorial. Estimates had put it as high as $6 million.

L.A. Councilwoman Jan Perry, who attended the news conference last week announcing Staples as the memorial site, says the city's costs won't be that steep.

"They just finished breaking down things last night and, you know, it's going to take a few days," said Perry.

Asked if the costs are going to be high, Perry said: "I don't know that that is true. I was on site yesterday and actually talked with Chief Bratton mid-day and they were in the process of reducing the deployment at that time, because the turnout was much less than expected."

Mayor Antonio Villarraigosa has been posting Twitter messages online from Africa, where he's on vacation, trying to encourage citizens and Jackson fans to make donations to help pay the city's costs.

In Villaraigosa's online posting, he says there's still time to contribute.

Wednesday, L.A.'s new city attorney weighed in on the dilemma. Carmen Trutanich, through a spokesman, wanted to know who authorized all the spending at a time when city workers are losing their jobs.

"This is big," said John Franklin, L.A. City Attorney's Office. "We're laying off people and furloughing people. The city attorney has some major concerns. And he wants to make sure the taxpayers' money is spent properly."

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