Los Angeles City Controller Laura Chick, who coasted to re-election earlier this month, plans to soon release an audit of the city's Department of Public Works, followed a month or two later by an audit of the city's Recreation and Parks Department.
It's part of an ambitious agenda that includes follow-up audits into contracting practices at the city's three proprietary departments Los Angeles World Airports, the Harbor Department and the Department of Water & Power.
Her audits of these agencies helped set in motion investigations into city contracting practices, and also cast her as an antagonist to Mayor James Hahn, who is now in a tough re-election campaign runoff. Chick has endorsed the challenger, City Councilman and former Assembly Speaker Antonio Villaraigosa.
Chick said she hopes the coming audits will meet with less resistance. "I think other departments have seen what's happened with the proprietary departments and they seem to be more cooperative," she told Business Journal reporters and editors last week.
Chick said she also plans to look at the city's management of workers' compensation costs, monitor its delivery of services and intensify her search for waste and fraud at City Hall.
"This is not a state-of-the-art, cutting-edge city in the way it's run," Chick said. "While the region and the economy have moved forward, our government and politics remains mired in the practices of the 1950s and 1960s."
City leaders have consistently failed to adopt the best policies that other cities put in place, Chick said. "There's a feeling that because Los Angeles is the nation's second largest city, there's nothing that can be learned by looking at what smaller cities are doing. That's just plain wrong," she said.
Chick said Hahn shows little interest in making major changes, which is one reason she endorsed Villaraigosa. But some consider her endorsement to be politically motivated a perception that was reinforced when she held private briefings with each of Hahn's four major primary challengers about the status of the pay-to-play and overbilling investigations.
"I was very careful about making sure I didn't do anything ethically wrong. But what I missed was that people could misunderstand or distort what I was briefing the candidates about," Chick said. "It wasn't secret or confidential information, but people thought it was. And it went against the fact that I'm all about openness and transparency."
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