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DA investigating LA Housing Authority in wake of controversy

December 13, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley is investigating some of L.A.'s housing commissioners. The probe comes as the city controller releases an audit that's sharply critical of the housing authority and its spending practices.

The Los Angeles City Council wants some control over the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles (HACLA).

HACLA runs low-cost housing for thousands of people. Eyewitness News has learned that the district attorney is conducting a criminal investigation of some of the housing commissioners.

At the same time, City Controller Wendy Greuel released an audit sharply critical of the way she says the housing authority wastes money.

"I believe Los Angeles taxpayers were duped by Housing Authority officials who claimed to serve the poor but instead recklessly used public money to support their lavish lifestyles," said Greuel.

Among those expenditures are thousands of dollars in questionable travel expenses, such as paying for a car, then taking a plane; thousand-dollar meal expenses where free meals were provided; missing receipts for thousands of dollars.

"They weren't following any rules. It was frivolous expenditure at the taxpayers' expense. And what the audit has shown is that this was not an isolated situation," said L.A. City Councilman Deniss Zine.

Ken Simmons, the new chief operating officer of the housing authority, testified to the council that there were many questionable expenditures by housing commissioners.

"Although I recognize it is public funds, the rules and regulations at HACLA are extremely loose," said Simmons.

The housing authority recently fired former CEO Rudolf Montiel. He was given a controversial $1.2-million severance payment as he left. Greuel blames Montiel gets for the excesses.

In the end the City Council voted unanimously to ask HACLA to share its budget and expenses in the future, such as billing for limousines.

"We don't have a handle on this organization, that is what I've learned from this moment in time," said L.A. City Councilman Bill Rosendahl. "Even when you said limousines, how dare we even think of using limousines?"

The City Council served notice that HACLA is going to continue to operate under a microscope, and as far is it can, the City Council will exercise whatever control it can gain over the controversial Housing Authority.

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