Corruption

Eviction Vigilante + Expense Account Queens = L.A. Government

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Shouldn't we be feeding committed public servants like HACLA President Beatriz Stotzer. really?

Jessica Garrison reports on a government official who spent taxpayer money on a $30,000 home improvement, tried to evict tenants who protested his policies, and yet may not be the worst person in the story.

L.A. Housing Authority Chief Executive Rudolf Montiel was fired by the Authority board yesterday:

The move comes less than six months after Montiel faced the wrath of city leaders when his agency tried to evict nine tenants who had protested housing authority policies at Montiel's Rancho Cucamonga home. At the time, City Council members called Montiel "childlike" and accused him of acting like "Big Brother." The eviction notices were later rescinded.

Montiel has headed the agency — and its $1-billion-a-year budget — since 2004.

The termination also follows Montiel's request this month that board members return thousands of dollars in "double-dipped" costs or travel expenses submitted without authorization or receipts.

Commissioners took per diems for travel expenses but also charged meals, sometimes extravagant ones including disallowed alcoholic drinks, to their agency credit cards, according to a CBS-TV Channel 2 report in February. The commissioners reported spending more than $150,000 over the last two years on travel and food, the station reported.

Full story. The L.A. Times still uses Decade Zero-era autolinking, in which phrases like "Big Brother" and "CBS-TV Channel 2" take readers hungry for more information to archival coverage of respectively, the TV show Big Brother and CBS Corp. So you'll have to use your Farnsworth Machine to watch Alvivon Hurd's original CBS coverage of the double-dipping scandal.

Last week we saw how CalPERS CEO Federico Buenrostro blew a placement agent's dollars on gambling and overseas junkets. In this case, food appears to have been the weakness of the Housing Authority board members, whose $158,000 expense-account binge included four-figure meals with fancy Brazilian cocktails. For his part, the fired Montiel spent $30,000 of the people of California's money on a home security system.

For my money Montiel's retaliatory evictions are more troubling than the board members' fairly standard featherbedding. You could make the case that since there is no "right" to public housing, tenancy on the taxpayer dime could require you to surrender certain rights, including the right to protest outside officials' homes. But there's nothing in the law or court precedent to back that up, and Montiel's attempt to evict tenant protesters is a pretty clear abuse of authority. It also happened five months ago, yet the board didn't bother firing him until he went after them.

That may or may not be another retaliatory gesture. In any event, rotten people like these are the kind of bacteria that thrive in the sewer of L.A. politics.