Diberdayakan oleh Blogger.

Popular Posts Today

UC Irvine chancellor takes top job at Ohio State

Written By kolimtiga on Jumat, 31 Januari 2014 | 12.56

Michael V. Drake, who as chancellor of UC Irvine enhanced the school's reputation as a first-rate research institution and boosted enrollment, was named Thursday as the new president of Ohio State University.

Drake's appointment was announced at a meeting of the Board of Trustees in Columbus. He was the consensus candidate, officials said.

"He is exactly the right leader at the right moment in the university's history as we address the challenges of affordability and access, while building on the already strong momentum we have generated at Ohio State in increasing the university's academic excellence," board Chairman Robert H. Schottenstein said.

Drake has served as head of the 28,000-student Irvine campus since 2005. He has a medical degree, a background in administration and a reputation as a prolific fundraiser. He will move to the Ohio campus with 57,000 students, top-flight athletics, and a mission to improve its academic ranking and research focus.

He replaces former Ohio State President E. Gordon Gee, who retired in July after six years at the helm. It was his second stint as Ohio State president. Gee, known for his colorful bow ties, left under a cloud after making remarks considered disparaging to Catholics. He is now interim president of West Virginia University.

In an interview, Drake said that he would always be a fan of Irvine but that the Ohio State post was an opportunity to take on new challenges.

"It's similar work, with a little different focus and scope in a different part of the country," Drake said. "Ohio State is a wonderful example of a flagship university, a land grant university that is very connected with the community, that's done wonderful things for the region and nationally and has wonderful potential to do even more."

Drake, 63, will leave the Irvine campus in June. A search committee is expected to begin looking for a replacement in February, UC system President Janet Napolitano said in a statement. Irvine Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Howard Gillman will serve as interim chancellor until the post is filled.

Napolitano called Drake a "dedicated and passionate" leader.

"Chancellor Drake has made the promulgation of values a hallmark of the UC Irvine experience," Napolitano said. "The seven campus values that he suggested at the time of his appointment — respect, intellectual curiosity, integrity, commitment, empathy, appreciation, and fun — have become essential parts of fostering the creative process, building stronger bonds between people, and inspiring a shared sense of purpose among faculty, staff, and students."

Speculation within the UC system held that Drake was on the short list of candidates for the UC presidency that eventually went to Napolitano. Drake did not directly address whether that was a factor in his decision to leave Irvine.

"One of my reservations in leaving is that I won't have an opportunity to continue working with President Napolitano, who brings a great voice and vision to UC," Drake said. "I think she's going to continue to be a terrific leader."

Drake graduated from Stanford University and earned a medical degree from UC San Francisco, where he worked for more than two decades as a professor of ophthalmology. Before taking over UC Irvine, he was the UC system's vice president for health affairs for five years.

At Irvine he presided over a tremendous growth spurt, with applications for undergraduate admissions increasing more than 90%. The university's four-year graduation rate increased 19%, and Drake worked to increase admissions of low-income and minority students.

He also worked to repair the image of UCI's medical school, after The Times reported in 2005 that more than 30 patients died awaiting liver transplants over a two-year period. Since then, the school has built a new hospital and the medical facility is considered among the nation's finest.

The campus attracted controversy in 2010 when the Muslim Student Union was suspended after a protest disrupted a speech by the Israeli ambassador.

Drake oversaw the opening in 2009 of the first new public law school in California in more than 40 years. But he was criticized when he rescinded a contract with prominent legal scholar Erwin Chemerinsky to become the founding dean because he felt the law professor's liberal stances were polarizing. Drake denied being pressured by outside influences and the post was offered again to Chemerinsky, who accepted.

Chemerinsky said any initial tension had long faded. He said he spoke to members of the Ohio State search committee, telling them that Drake would make a "terrific" leader. The two have co-taught a freshman seminar on the history of civil rights for many years.

"I don't think you can find a better campus president anywhere else in the country, though I'm heartbroken he's leaving Irvine," Chemerinsky said.

"He knows when to be hands on and when to delegate and he has a wonderful manner of dealing with people. I can't say we have always agreed on everything, but I know where he stood on issues, and he was always willing to listen."

Officials at Ohio State said Drake's contract and salary are expected to be finalized Friday.


12.56 | 0 komentar | Read More

Online credit card privacy bill advances

SACRAMENTO — Californians who use their credit cards for online purchases would gain some protection, and voters would decide whether the state's public universities could consider race and gender for admissions, under measures passed by the state Senate on Thursday.

The Assembly has yet to act on either measure.

Responding to cases in which hackers stole personal financial information on millions of credit card users, Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) proposed limiting the details that online merchants may collect from their customers.

Her measure would permit merchants to have only certain information, such as ZIP Codes and maiden names, necessary to combat identity theft. It also would bar them from selling the information or using it for marketing purposes.

In addition, the online retailers would have to destroy the information once it is no longer needed for fraud protection — for instance, when a consumer cancels an account.

"In the wake of recent, highly public data breaches, consumer privacy is at the forefront of all our minds," Jackson said in a statement. "Consumer privacy rights must become a priority as we make more purchases online and become more aware of how easily our privacy can be compromised."

The bill is opposed by groups including the California Bankers Assn., the California Chamber of Commerce and the California Retailers Assn.

Opponents called the bill, SB 383, overreaching and said its limits on information would jeopardize fraud prevention efforts.

Senators also voted Thursday voted to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot that, if passed, would allow state universities and colleges to award preferential treatment based on race or gender in deciding whom to recruit and admit.

If approved by the Assembly, the measure could go on the ballot in November, but would be more likely to appear before voters in 2016, to coincide with the next presidential election.

Voter approval of the measure would repeal portions of a 1996 law, Proposition 209, that prohibits preferential treatment using race or gender in admission decisions.

"A blanket prohibition on consideration of race was a mistake in 1996, and we are still suffering the consequences from that initiative today," said Sen. Ed Hernandez (D-Los Angeles), the bill's author.

Republicans, including minority leader Bob Huff of Diamond Bar, voted against the measure, SCA 5.

"This bill allows our public schools to use race and gender to discriminate against students," Huff said.

Also on Thursday, the Assembly passed a bill to require additional testing on sewage sludge exported from Los Angeles and other counties to the Central Valley.

Residents of Kern County have objected to the imports of treated human waste, known as biosolids, for recycling as fertilizer. The measure, by Assemblyman Rudy Salas Jr. (D-Bakersfield), would allow the State Water Board to test the biosolids for contaminants twice a year.

The city of Los Angeles opposes the bill, arguing that it already performs extensive tests on its exported waste. Many Los Angeles-area lawmakers abstained from voting on the bill.


Times staff writer Melanie Mason contributed to this report.

12.56 | 0 komentar | Read More

Roderick Wright will remain in Senate until appeal is decided

SACRAMENTO — State Sen. Roderick Wright will remain a member of California's upper house until an appeal is decided on his eight felony convictions for lying about where he lived.

But the Democratic lawmaker from Inglewood is being removed as chairman of the powerful Senate Governmental Organization Committee, which oversees gambling and liquor laws. He was allowed to keep his membership on the Senate's budget, energy and human services committees.

"Unless and until there is a final conviction for a felony," state Senate leader Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) told reporters, "I do not believe it is appropriate or necessary to expel Sen. Wright or ask him to resign."

Steinberg made his announcement after a closed-door meeting with his caucus, two days after a Los Angeles jury found Wright guilty of voter fraud and perjury. Prosecutors said he falsely claimed to live in his Senate district when he was elected.

Wright plans a vigorous appeal of the conviction, and attorneys advising the Legislature said the matter is not final until a judge rules on the appeal and imposes a sentence, Steinberg said. Sentencing is set for March 12.

If the conviction is upheld, the Senate leader said, he would support an expulsion.

"You can't have anybody convicted of a felony while in office continue to serve, but that's not the current status," Steinberg said.

Wright declined to comment Thursday. He agreed to step down from his chairmanship of the Governmental Organization Committee and two subcommittees, a change that will be ratified by the Senate Rules Committee next week, Steinberg said.

The leader of the Senate's minority Republicans, Bob Huff of Diamond Bar, offered no objections to the Democrats' decision Thursday.

"The removal of Sen. Wright from his committee chairmanship is appropriate," Huff said. "The Senate will be able to make more informed decisions once the sentencing process is completed in March."

But the delay surprised some others.

"Eight felony convictions is very serious," said Jessica Levinson, a Loyola Law School professor who studies governmental ethics. "So the idea that the Senate is not going to do anything is a difficult path to tread."

Lew Uhler, head of the California-based National Tax Limitation Committee, noted that Steinberg stripped Sen. Ronald S. Calderon (D-Montebello) of all committee assignments over bribery allegations, even though no charges have been filed.

Allowing Wright to keep committee assignments "is a sad abuse of the public trust," Uhler said. "He certainly should not be treated better than Calderon."

Calderon objected too. "I feel that I have been treated unfairly especially since I have not been charged with any wrongdoing," he said in an emailed statement.

Steinberg said that in Calderon's case, "the underlying allegations go to the very heart of what we do inside these chambers, inside this Capitol."

In Wright's case, Steinberg said, there is "ambiguity" in the law governing whether someone has established a domicile in a legislative district or is a resident of that district. That argument was made by Wright's attorney during the senator's trial.

Steinberg said the Legislature should act to make the law clearer.


Times staff writer Jean Merl contributed to this report.

12.56 | 0 komentar | Read More

Garcetti names new DWP head, dismisses senior official

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti on Thursday stepped up his effort to overhaul the leadership of the city's much-criticized municipal utility and curb the influence of its powerful employees' union by nominating a new agency boss and dismissing a top-ranking executive.

Garcetti nominated Anaheim City Manager Marcie Edwards to take charge of the Department of Water and Power, which has been struggling to manage a series of controversies over spending and customer service.

Edwards, who ran Anaheim's utility and previously worked at the DWP for more than two decades, was picked because she has the experience to run one of the nation's largest municipal utilities like a business and the toughness to "take on the status quo at the DWP," Garcetti said.

"During the mayor's race, L.A. voters gave me a mandate to reform the DWP, and with Marcie Edwards, we're going to make sure the DWP is more efficient," Garcetti told reporters at the utility's downtown headquarters. After taking office in July, Garcetti initiated a new study of agency salaries and how they compare to workers at other utilities.

Two years ago, city consultants reported that DWP workers were receiving significantly more pay than their counterparts in the industry. A Times analysis last year found that DWP employees are paid roughly 50% more than workers at other city agencies.

Edwards, who must be confirmed by the DWP Board of Commissioners and City Council, would be the first woman to run the DWP. She has deep roots at the department: Her father and grandfather worked there, and she started her career at the DWP as a clerk typist at the age of 19. She was the first woman to hold several job titles as she worked her way up the department ladder, Garcetti said.

If confirmed, Edwards will replace General Manager Ron Nichols, who announced his resignation earlier this month. Garcetti had publicly voiced a desire for Nichols to be more aggressive with the DWP union, notably in the administration's effort to determine how two utility-funded nonprofit trusts have spent more than $40 million in ratepayer money.

During his three-year tenure, Nichols was a co-director of the nonprofits with International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 18, Business Manager Brian D'Arcy. Nichols has said that he could not provide detailed financial records to the mayor's office without D'Arcy's consent, and that D'Arcy threatened to sue him personally if the records were made public.

On Thursday, Edwards said she would support the mayor's efforts to make the documents public and cut off the nonprofits' money "until we can account for the activities and spending."

Also on Thursday, Senior Assistant General Manager Aram Benyamin was placed on administrative leave. A 33-year veteran of the department, Benyamin was in charge of the utility's massive power grid, and one of two senior assistants who report to the general manager.

Benyamin was considered a close management ally of D'Arcy, who strongly backed Garcetti's opponent in last year's mayoral campaign.

Benyamin said he was given no explanation for his removal. Asked if he thought it was due to his ties to the union chief, he said, "I grew up with Brian D'Arcy, I came up through the ranks of the IBEW. If that's the reason, I'm proud of that."

Mayoral spokesman Jeff Millman declined to comment directly on the reasons for Benyamin's removal, saying only that Garcetti "wants new leadership to reform the DWP. More changes are likely in the future."

Benyamin said he plans to exercise an option to go back to the DWP Civil Service job he had before rising to the executive offices. "I've been there 33 years. I don't think I've taken a single day off," he said. "I'm not planning on retiring."

He also has served as a trustee of the nonprofit training and safety institutes that have been resisting attempts by Garcetti's DWP commissioners and the city controller to get a detailed accounting of how the nonprofits have used tens of millions of dollars in public money since 2000.

The battle over the records began in September after The Times reported that DWP officials had only scant information documenting how the nonprofits were spending up to $4 million a year.

D'Arcy has fought efforts to get the records, including a subpoena from City Controller Ron Galperin, arguing that the institutes are not subject to state public records laws.

The controversy escalated Tuesday when the Los Angeles County district attorney's office said its prosecutors and investigators were also seeking the nonprofits' records to determine if any crimes had been committed.

Edwards would take over an agency that is also trying to fix a new, $162-million computerized billing system that sent as many as 70,000 late or inaccurate bills to customers in recent months.

In addition, city officials say that the agency will soon have to make the case for raising customer rates to fulfill city obligations to replenish water supplies in the Owens Valley and increase the amount of power obtained from renewable sources, among other things.


12.56 | 0 komentar | Read More

Teacher charged with cruelty after 400 pythons found in home

Written By kolimtiga on Kamis, 30 Januari 2014 | 12.56

A Newport Beach grade school teacher who bred snakes as a hobby was arrested Wednesday on animal cruelty charges after authorities discovered more than 400 ball pythons — some alive, many dead — scattered throughout his cluttered home.

Animal control officers said it took much of the day to conduct a room-by-room search of the five-bedroom home in a Santa Ana neighborhood where residents had complained for months about the foul smell drifting from the home.

Wearing gas masks and holding Tasers, investigators discovered 404 nonvenomous snakes — more than half of them dead — in clear plastic containers with labels reading "pastel reaper," "cinny ghost" and "orange belly." Authorities said nearly 50 rats and mice roamed freely inside the home.

"I got rats everywhere," one officer said in a police video that shows investigators entering the home.

Many of the dead snakes were still in plastic containers and there was no evidence of food or water in any of the cages, said Sondra Berg, Santa Ana Police Department animal services supervisor. Four of the bedrooms were filled with racks, each holding 30 to 40 snakes.

William Buchman, a sixth-grade teacher at Mariners Elementary School, is identified on various reptile collector websites as a ball python breeder who was using a process known as morphing to achieve different patterns on the snakes.

But at some point, Buchman appears to have gone from a hobbyist to a hoarder, Berg said.

"It's pretty sad," Berg said. "Hoarding is pretty much a mental condition. They need help."

Authorities said that Buchman's mother died in 2011, and that her death appeared to have affected him profoundly.

Residents in the tidy Santa Ana neighborhood on Fernwood Drive said that Buchman was pleasant but that the smell from the house had become overwhelming.

"We thought someone was dead," said Forest Long Sr., 62, who lives next door. "We couldn't open up the bedroom windows. My wife started to gag and throw up."

Last year, Buchman, a Baltimore Ravens fan who lived alone, came over to watch the Super Bowl with neighbors, said Forest Long III, 18. But the snake breeder seemed to become reclusive after that.

He said a white van would sometimes pull up and deliver cages packed with mice.

Animal control officers visited the home about a year ago, but didn't observe any of the conditions they saw Wednesday. Reports from neighbors prompted further investigation.

Buchman, they said, started to leave his car at a nearby park and walk home to avoid investigators.

Jason Haywood, president of Southern California Herpetology Assn. and Rescue, who was helping transport the snakes to a veterinarian in Yorba Linda, said that once the surviving snakes are treated, they will be placed in homes, classrooms and zoos.

Haywood said some of the snakes are valuable, such as the white and yellow phantom butter ball python he spotted in the home. He estimated that it was worth $5,000.

Sam S. Makki, director of Reptile Rescue Orange County, said he was called on to help with the pythons but that the scene inside the home was depressing.

"Animals are awesome and it can be a rewarding experience," Makki said. "But don't bite off more than you can chew."



Times Community News correspondent Anuran Altair contributed to this report.

12.56 | 0 komentar | Read More

L.A. man who killed two girlfriends gets 25 years to life

A Los Angeles man who pleaded guilty to murdering two girlfriends, including one whose dismembered body was found in Mexico, was sentenced Wednesday to 25 years to life in prison.

Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge George Lomeli, who said he saw photos of the dismembered corpse, called the murders "horrendous" and "sickening" before imposing the sentence on 55-year-old Aurangzeb Aiyoob Manjra.

The remains of Esperanza Torio, 39, were found 17 miles apart in the Mexican beach city of Rosarito south of the U.S. border. The head was separated from the body, and hands and feet were missing. A DNA match in 2009 identified the remains.

Torio's sister, Edna Magpayo, was the first to report the disappearance of "Espy" in 1996. In a downtown courthouse Wednesday, Magpayo asked Manjra to face her as she spoke, but he declined.

"We may look normal — we may have moved on," she told him. "But there's a space in our hearts that will never be filled."

Torio had two children, as did the second victim, 44-year-old Maria Santos. She was reported missing in 2004, but her body has not been found.

Speaking on behalf of Santos' family in the Philippines, Los Angeles County Deputy Dist. Atty. Habib Balian said that what Manjra "had taken away from two young children can't be replaced."

Manjra owned a used car dealership at the time of the first murder and said he owned a computer-parts store when he was arrested in 2010.

Prosecutors said that Manjra stalked and harassed his girlfriends. His wife of three years in the 1980s and a subsequent girlfriend had "escaped" him, police said. But his last two girlfriends could not. He went as far as traveling to the Philippines to bring Torio back when she tried to run away, authorities said.

After seven years with Manjra, Torio had started living with her sister at the time of her death and was set to move into her own apartment the weekend she disappeared. Torio suffered beatings and endured sessions of Russian roulette at the hands of Manjra, according to her journal, which was recovered by police.

In Santos' case, a sentencing report stated that Manjra "asserted a pattern of jealousy, domination and violence" to successfully scare her into staying with him. Authorities said he targeted women with children and low self-esteem and used a set of "14 rules" that he devised to guide his controlling relationship.


12.56 | 0 komentar | Read More

Democrats may take action against Sen. Wright

SACRAMENTO — Although state Sen. Roderick D. Wright won't be sentenced on his felony convictions until March, judgment day from the Democrat's peers in the Legislature may be imminent.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) said Wednesday that he would consult with his caucus and "make a full set of recommendations within the next couple of days."

Wright, who was accused of lying about where he lived when he ran for his seat and voted in several elections, was convicted by a Los Angeles County jury Tuesday on eight counts of perjury and voter fraud. He could receive more than eight years behind bars and a ban from further elective office.

His attorney has said that Wright intends to appeal. In the meantime, the Senate has been scrambling to determine what action, if any, it should take — including whether to vote on an expulsion. Ousting the senator would require a two-thirds vote of the upper house.

Wright is the eighth officeholder or candidate — and the first state legislator — convicted of violating residency laws since the Los Angeles County district attorney's office formed its Public Integrity Division in 2001. The others included members of city councils or school boards in Vernon, Compton, West Covina and Huntington Park, the D.A.'s office said.

Former Los Angeles Councilman Richard Alarcon and his wife have been charged with 23 felonies involving whether they lived in the council district he represented. They pleaded not guilty; their trial has not yet been scheduled.

Wright claimed an Inglewood rental complex he owned as his legal residence when he ran for the Senate seat he first won in 2008. Prosecutors said his true home was a house in Baldwin Hills, outside the district he represents.

In a brief telephone interview Wednesday, Wright, who remains in Los Angeles, said he was conferring with his attorneys and had not "even thought about" whether to take a leave of absence from his job while appealing his conviction. "It's not something I've looked into," he said.

As for the verdict, he said he was "disappointed. But life moves on. You have to assess where you are and what your options are."

Ethics and legal experts said the legislator's conviction underscores the seriousness with which laws governing residency requirements must be taken.

"People have a right to expect public officials to obey the law," said Michael Josephson, founder of the Josephson Institute, which seeks to promote ethical behavior in individuals, businesses and institutions. "Undercutting the spirit of the law is not the way we want this country to be run."

Wright said he believed he was doing everything legally necessary when he took steps to run from the Inglewood property he has owned since 1977, and his attorney called the law murky.

But "there is a pretty strong norm that you are in the community you seek to represent," said Loyola Law School professor Justin Levitt. The Legislature set up such laws also to provide "a way of ensuring that a voter not from your community is not deciding who your representative should be," he said.

One issue being discussed by Senate leaders is whether to take action now or wait until after Wright's sentencing or even the exhaustion of any appeals, said Sen. Richard Roth (D-Riverside), chairman of the Senate's ethics committee.

If the conviction stands, Roth said, Wright should resign or be removed from office: "I certainly think that if the appellate process has been exausted and the verdict is upheld on appeal, that his service in the Senate would undoubtedly need to terminate."

Possibilities in the interim include suspension and such sanctions as removal from Senate committees.

Steinberg stripped Sen. Ronald S. Calderon (D-Montebello) of all committee assignments after federal allegations of bribery were made against him, even though Calderon has not been charged with a crime.

Steinberg announced a shakeup of committee assignments Wednesday but left Wright in his positions, which include chairman of the Governmental Organization Committee. The powerful panel acts on bills involving horse racing, gambling, the National Guard, alcoholic beverages and management of public safety emergencies, among other matters.

The last time a California state senator was expelled was in 1905, when three were ousted for "malfeasance in office," said Senate Secretary Greg Schmidt. Assembly officials have found no record of any expulsions in the lower house, said Jon Waldie, chief administrative officer.



Mcgreevy reported from Sacramento, Merl from Los Angeles.

12.56 | 0 komentar | Read More

Teen run over by rescuers was already dead, report on jet crash says

A teenage passenger who was killed in the July crash landing of an Asiana Airlines jetliner was already dead when she was struck by two rescue vehicles, a report released by San Francisco airport and fire officials claims.

Ye Meng Yuan — a 16-year-old Chinese high school student — was not wearing her seat belt, and her death was caused by the trauma of being ejected from the plane, according to the report submitted to the National Transportation Safety Board and made public this week.

The report, which details the accident investigation, acknowledges that Ye was struck by two firefighting vehicles responding to the burning Boeing 777 after the jetliner clipped a sea wall and slammed into a runway at San Francisco International Airport on July 6.

But it disputes previous findings that Ye was alive when she was run over. San Mateo County Coroner Robert J. Foucrault said after an autopsy that Ye suffered crushing injuries and internal hemorrhaging — "multiple blunt injuries that are consistent with being run over by a motor vehicle."

"While there has been some speculation that Ms. Ye was alive at the time of the rollovers, suggesting that first responders mishandled the situation, ample evidence refutes this," the report states.

San Francisco, the report adds, "sincerely regrets the added insult to the body of the deceased."

The report was prepared by Tryg McCoy, chief operating officer of the airport, and Assistant Deputy Chief Dale Carnes of the San Francisco Fire Department's airport bureau.

At least three firefighters "early in the response" determined "based on visual and conclusive observations" that Ye, who was found near the aircraft's left wing, was dead before she was struck, the report states. Ye was covered in dust, and her eyes were rolled back, the report states. The first responders, it notes, "are trained to recognize persons who are dead or beyond saving and to prioritize their duties to do the most good for the most people."

Two of Ye's teenage classmates were also killed in the crash.

San Francisco airport spokesman Doug Yakel said that the report by city officials is based "strictly on information that the NTSB has released" and that the federal safety board will make the final judgment regarding the incident.

The report is being made public days after a group of the flight's passengers filed a lawsuit against Boeing Co., the plane's manufacturer.

The suit alleges that equipment on the aircraft was improperly installed or defective, resulting "in dangerously inadequate warnings to pilots about low airspeed" and that "Boeing was aware that its low airspeed warning system was inadequate," according to the complaint filed in an Illinois court Jan. 17.

The complaint also states that Boeing "contracted with Asiana to train all of Asiana's pilots at its own training facilities." Boeing, it states, "failed to adequately train Asiana's pilots."

The suit was filed on behalf of 115 plaintiffs and their legal representatives, according to attorneys with the Chicago-based firm Ribbeck Law Chartered, which filed the complaint.


12.56 | 0 komentar | Read More

LAFD plans campaign to fight a surge in fire deaths

Written By kolimtiga on Rabu, 29 Januari 2014 | 12.56

Los Angeles fire officials plan to launch a safety campaign following an increase in fire-related deaths this year, including one Tuesday in which a man died after a blaze in a Mid-City home that did not have smoke detectors.

"We've never had these number of fatalities in such a short amount of time," Los Angeles Fire Department Capt. Jaime Moore said.

Seven people have died in fires this month, a surprise to fire officials because deaths typically occur more during cold winters when residents start using furnaces, space heaters and even small grills. But this winter has been dry and unseasonably warm.

"That's the irony of this," Moore said. "We've had seven fatalities without a cold spell."

Typically, the department averages one to two deaths by this point in the year, Moore said.

According to the department's civilian fire fatality statistics, the number of fire-related death cases in Los Angeles is increasing.

Last year, there were 20 fire-related deaths and there were 22 deaths in 2012. The department recorded 21 deaths in 2011 and 23 deaths in 2010.

Officials say the fatalities reported this month had one thing in common: no smoke detectors.

"We have to be more proactive," Moore said.

The LAFD's safety campaign will probably include reminders for residents to install the devices, public service announcements and partnerships with safety nonprofits. The department also plans to reach out to smoke detector companies for donations.

But the Fire Department can do only so much, LAFD Battalion Chief Stephen Ruda said, and residents need to take responsibility.

"We can talk and we can write so much, but people have to act," Ruda said. "Maybe it's the apathy of the people: 'It won't happen to me.' "

"Ruda and Moore were at the scene Tuesday at a one-story home in the 2300 block of South Orange Drive in the Mid-City area. Damian Young, 37, died; his mother and elderly aunt suffered possible smoke inhalation.

It was not immediately clear what sparked the 5:36 a.m. blaze, which was mostly contained to one bedroom.

Young often used candles and incense in his room, fire officials said.

"It's devastating," said neighbor Tanisha Martin, 39, who knew Young and his family.

Martin described Young as an immaculate dresser who worked in sales at the Macy's in the Beverly Center for many years. She and Young's mother were childhood friends.

"He loved his mother tremendously," Martin said.

Martin said firefighters gave her two carbon monoxide detectors after they learned that her home did not have any smoke or carbon monoxide detectors. She said she plans to buy smoke detectors.

"I hope this creates awareness," Martin said. "A beautiful young man is no longer with us because of the tragic error of not having a smoke detector."

The seven deaths in January include a family — parents and two children — who were killed in a fire at a converted barn in Sylmar.

Ruda said two of the fatal fires occurred at homes with "pack rat" conditions, including the death of a 61-year-old man who was killed in a garage fire in Winnetka.



12.56 | 0 komentar | Read More

O.C. Undersheriff John Scott to be Baca's interim replacement

The newly named interim sheriff of Los Angeles County, current Orange County Undersheriff John L. Scott, said Tuesday that he would continue the momentum of reform in the beleaguered department.

Flanked by four of the five county supervisors, Scott said, "I can assure you, I'm not going to be a place-holder here in L.A. County. I will begin the process immediately of restoring both the dignity to the men and women of L.A. County and the confidence and trust of the public that we serve."

After two closed-door meetings earlier in the day, the supervisors announced that they had selected Scott to take over for the resigning Lee Baca until voters select a new sheriff later this year, either in June's primary election or November's runoff. Baca, who had been favored to win reelection despite receiving frequent public criticism, announced unexpectedly early this month that he would drop out of the race and retire. His last day will be Thursday.

The Sheriff's Department has been beset by allegations of poor hiring and abuses in managing the nation's largest jail system. Late last year, investigations culminated in federal criminal charges against 18 current and former department employees.

The supervisors said it was a priority to find an interim sheriff who would continue to implement reforms recommended by a county commission that studied jail violence. Scott will also be involved in the initial phases of long-term planning for the jail facilities, including a proposal to replace the aging Men's Central Jail.

Baca had recommended Assistant Sheriff Terri McDonald for the interim post, but that suggestion was scuttled when county officials learned that McDonald — who came from the state corrections department last year specifically to oversee the jail system — lacked the required certifications or field experience to hold the sheriff's post.

However, Baca spokesman Steve Whitmore said the sheriff considered the decision to appoint Scott "a very wise move," noting that he was qualified because he has worked for the Sheriff's Department and an outside agency.

Scott began his law enforcement career as a deputy with Los Angeles County's Lakewood sheriff's station in 1969, and rose to the rank of division chief, retiring in 2005.

He then went to work at the Orange County Sheriff's Department in 2008, serving as undersheriff to Sheriff Sandra Hutchens, who had also been with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. At the time, the Orange County department was reeling from the indictment of former Sheriff Mike Carona on corruption charges.

Supervisor Gloria Molina praised Scott's track record in Orange County, saying that he has the right qualities to head Los Angeles County's troubled department.

"He's understanding of the kind of reform this department needs," she said.

Other supervisors said Scott's knowledge of the Los Angeles County department would allow him to quickly transition into the new role. Board Chairman Don Knabe said Scott would be able to "hit the ground running."

Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky said, "Looking for an interim, we were looking for someone who would not be a caretaker, would not just be marking time for the next 10 months."

Officials who worked with Scott and are still at the Sheriff's Department told The Times that he is generally well-respected, and considered a strong steward until voters choose a permanent replacement.

Two officials, who spoke on the condition that they not be identified because they were not authorized to speak publicly, said that when Scott left the department, he had grown disillusioned with the subordinates whom Baca was empowering, and warned the sheriff that he was headed for trouble if he stayed on the same course.

Whitmore declined to discuss that assertion, saying, "I'm not going to get into the pettiness."

The vote to appoint Scott was 4 to 0, with Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas abstaining. Ridley-Thomas did not appear with the other supervisors at a news conference where Scott appeared and did not respond to a request for comment.

Scott will take over immediately upon Baca's departure and will earn the same annual salary, about $300,000, as the former sheriff. He will take a leave of absence from Orange County and return to his post there once a new sheriff is chosen.



12.56 | 0 komentar | Read More

Inviting powerful DWP union boss for a drink

You can add the Los Angeles County district attorney's office to the long list of agencies and public officials going after one of the most powerful political players in the city.

A D.A. source told me Tuesday that prosecutors have renewed their interest in getting their hands on records being withheld by Brian D'Arcy, head of the largest union representing employees at the Department of Water and Power.

The D.A.'s office is working with City Controller Ron Galperin to figure out the "best way to obtain and examine" the records, I'm told. The goal is to determine whether there has been any criminal activity in connection with $40 million in ratepayer money that went to two nonprofit institutes aimed at promoting worker safety and training. D'Arcy has steadfastly refused to account for the money since city officials began demanding information last September.

That's right, we're five months into the standoff. It's been three weeks since the city served a subpoena that D'Arcy is fighting in court, arguing that the institutes he oversees are exempt from having to comply.

It'd be one thing if he was stonewalling about $40 million in union dues. But that money came from DWP customers.

And if that doesn't fry you, try this:

Not even the DWP knows how the money was spent.

That's right, the electric company is in the dark.

This is like having the police or recreation department tell us yeah, they know we paid our taxes, but as for how they spent $40 million, our guess is as good as theirs.

Judging by how he's handled this thing so far, I kind of doubt that D'Arcy is trembling over the D.A.'s interest in him. The city controller, the DWP commission, the DWP general manager who just quit in frustration and the media have all asked D'Arcy to produce the documents, and he's had the same response for all of us.

Stuff it.

I want you ratepayers to know I've done my best to get the goods, making a standing offer to D'Arcy. If he agrees to an on-the-record conversation, I will bring his favorite cocktail.

D'Arcy has told me he likes a nice Guinness stout with a Jameson sidecar.

You busy right now, Brian? Wherever you are, I'll bring the party.

Absent Mr. D'Arcy's cooperation, I've been trying to reach out to his membership, Local 18 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

First I called and asked DWP employees what they thought about the way D'Arcy was handling this.

But I got stiffed.

Then I circled the utility's headquarters up on Hope Street, hoping someone would give me a comment, send up a smoke signal, anything.


"I have no comment," one woman said as she skated past me, and she was one of the talkative ones.

12.56 | 0 komentar | Read More

Hundreds greet Taiwanese president in L.A. Chinatown visit

Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou greeted hundreds of flag-waving supporters in Los Angeles' Chinatown on Tuesday, an unusual public appearance on American soil that was a sign of the island's improving relationship with China.

Ma was on his way home after visiting Sao Tome and Principe, Burkina Faso and Honduras — three of Taiwan's remaining diplomatic allies. The U.S. State Department termed the visit a "transit" that is "consistent with the unofficial nature of our relations with Taiwan."

Such stopovers are a gauge of how well a Taiwanese leader is getting along with the U.S., and by extension, China, which considers Taiwan a renegade province. In 1995, then-Taiwanese President Lee Teng-hui spoke at his alma mater, Cornell University, which prompted China to fire missiles into the Taiwan Strait. Since then, Taiwanese presidents, who are democratically elected, have mostly limited themselves to private meetings in hotels.

Ma's willingness to negotiate with China has pleased U.S. officials but angered some independence-leaning Taiwanese, who fear he is heading toward eventual reunification.

"It shows there's a great deal of confidence between Taipei and Washington that Ma will stay within the ground rules of not making a huge political splash during his transit," Alan D. Romberg, director of the Stimson Center's East Asia Program, said of Ma's Chinatown appearance.

Roger Xing, a spokesman for the Consulate-General of the People's Republic of China in Los Angeles, offered no comment.

"Regarding Ma's trip, we really do not have anything to say," he said in a text message.

The region's pro-China immigrants, who braved desert heat last June to welcome Chinese President Xi Jinping to Southern California, did not object publicly to Ma's visit. Sue Zhang, a leader of the Roundtable of Chinese American Organizations, said China and Taiwan should work together against Japan to protect disputed islands near Taiwan.

"Everyone should cooperate. It's not about unification. It's about working together," Zhang said. "When Ma comes to Los Angeles, the Taiwanese people feel very warmly toward him and are obviously very happy to see their leader."

Ma arrived at the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Assn. on Broadway in the afternoon after visiting the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley. In remarks that lasted about 15 minutes, he spoke in Mandarin of his long-standing relationship with Chinatown organizations, which are composed mostly of Cantonese immigrants.

As a graduate student at Harvard University, he said, he became a spokesman for the local benevolent association, forging a "blood is thicker than water" bond.

He told the audience that Taiwan and China should cooperate and work together, noting the progression from a state of near-war to a largely peaceful relationship.

Even though fewer than 30 countries have diplomatic relations with Taiwan, more than 100 allow Taiwanese citizens to enter their borders without visas, which is a sign of respect, Ma said.

"We in Taiwan are working hard to improve relations with China," he said.

Despite an influx of immigrants from China in recent decades, Los Angeles Chinatown organizations remain generally supportive of Taiwan. In San Francisco, the Consolidated Benevolent Assn. no longer flies the Taiwanese flag and has stopped celebrating Double 10 Day, which commemorates the Republic of China's birth.

Some who came to see Ma on Tuesday were longtime U.S. citizens but also Ma's constituents. Every four years, thousands of local Taiwanese Americans travel to the island to vote in presidential elections.

"He wants to let us know he never forgets about us. Even though his situation at home is tough, he really cares about overseas Chinese from Taiwan," said Christine Chia, 58, a San Gabriel Valley resident who has returned to Taiwan twice to vote for Ma.

As he left the Benevolent Assn., Ma shook hands with some in the crowd, then laid a wreath at the nearby Sun Yat-sen statue before paying his respects at the Ma Family Assn.

At one point, the U.S. government was so displeased with Ma's predecessor, Chen Shui-bian of the Democratic Progressive Party, that it relegated Chen to a brief fueling stopover in Alaska.

Supporters of the party, who usually protest when presidents from the opposing Kuomintang visit, said they did not bother this time because Ma is in his last term and facing low approval ratings at home.

"He keeps thinking that if he talks it through with China, there will be peaceful unification. This is something most Taiwanese cannot accept," said Jerome Cheng, president of the DPP's U.S. West chapter.


12.56 | 0 komentar | Read More

To fight the cartel, Mexican emigrants return to their hometowns

Written By kolimtiga on Minggu, 26 Januari 2014 | 12.56

Martin Cruz was chopping onions in the cramped kitchen of the Birrieria Apatzingan restaurant in Pacoima and talking with his co-worker Bertha Infante about the violence that has gripped their hometown — the namesake of the eatery where they work.

Cruz, 47, and Infante, 36, are from Apatzingan in the Mexican state of Michoacan, where armed vigilante militias have recently made headlines around the world for their efforts to drive out the dominant Knights Templar drug cartel.

The Mexican government sent thousands of troops and federal police into the state last week hoping to avert a showdown as the vigilantes seized control of communities around Apatzingan and threatened to attack cartel members there. The vigilantes said they will not disarm until the government arrests the cartel's top leaders.

Cruz said he has not been back home in 11 years but has heard the stories about how the cartel had made Apatzingan its stronghold, burning down businesses, kidnapping residents and leaving decapitated bodies in town plazas.

Infante chimed in: "Over there, better to be silent, or end up on a street corner without your tongue or your head."

But despite the violence, both said that if they could, they would return to Apatzingan, if only to see home again.

"It's where I was born, where my father and my brothers are," Cruz said with a bittersweet smile. "You miss home. If I could return, yes, I would."

The conflict in Michoacan may be 1,500 miles away from Southern California, but it is deeply resonant with the more than 1 million residents here who have roots in the central Mexico state. By some estimates, there are nearly 5 million people with connections to Michoacan in the United States, with the largest communities in California.

One can see the Michoacan influence in popular carnitas shops and restaurants that bear the names of cities like Zamora and Uruapan and in paletas Michoacanas — popsicles with flavors such as mango and tamarind.

But Andrew Selee, executive vice president of the Woodrow Wilson Center policy think tank in Washington, said few groups of Mexicans in the U.S. have forged as tight a connection with their home state as Michoacanos.

"They're particularly good at organizing and keeping in touch with their home communities," he said. "They have high rates of participation in hometown associations."

Historically, experts say, the central Mexican states of Michoacan, Jalisco and Zacatecas have sent more people to the United States than any other areas.

So it makes sense, some say, that many of the ragtag soldiers in the self-defense groups had been immigrants in the U.S., including some who had been deported. Jesus Martinez, an immigrant advocate in Fresno who served as a state congressman in Michoacan from 2005 to 2008, said he understands how some immigrants from Michoacan who have been in this country for years would voluntarily return home to help in the struggle for its future.

"It doesn't surprise me that some people decided to go back on their own, or that some individuals here in the U.S. have publicly expressed support for the auto-defensas," or vigilante militias, he said. "And it doesn't surprise me that among the auto-defensas, some leaders have been migrants."

Jose Sandoval, an activist in San Jose from Tepalcatepec in the region known as Tierra Caliente, or Hot Land, has helped organize demonstrations to rally support — including money, food and medicine — for the self-defense groups, which some of his own family members have joined.

Sandoval said it would be foolhardy for the self-defense groups to put down their weapons, as the federal government has asked them to, until the leaders of the cartel are arrested or killed.

He said Mexican immigrants in the U.S. can play a powerful role because their relative earning power has allowed them to send money back to their hometowns, where it can make a difference.

"It's not just Michoacan, but all of Mexico itself. We have to make a change for the good of all Mexicans," Sandoval said. "We need to unite to form auto-defensas in all the ranchos, and all the towns and cities, to send all these corrupt criminals fleeing."

After 25 years in Modesto, Luis Alberto Rivera, 46, moved with his wife and three young U.S.-born daughters about a year ago to his hometown of Coalcoman, a city of roughly 20,000 in the Tierra Caliente. There, he said, the cartel had "taken ownership of people's lives." Even the police waved hello to the armed drug dealers as they drove through the streets.

"I had a patriotic dream of returning to my homeland for many years. The lack of safety was a concern, but my rationale was, if 20,000 people were surviving in these conditions, then we would survive too," Rivera said. "It caused me a lot of anger that people were not even putting their mind to getting rid of these criminals. I was anxious to return to help be a part of a solution."

12.56 | 0 komentar | Read More

Lawsuit takes on California teachers' job protections

Local school districts, state legislators and even a California governor have tried to limit teachers' job protections, among the most generous in the country. Efforts have all failed to rid public schools of ineffective teachers by making it easier to fire them and tougher for them to gain tenure and by stripping them of seniority rights.

Now proponents are taking their fight to another venue: the courtroom.

A Los Angeles County Superior Court judge will hear arguments this week over the constitutionality of laws that govern California's teacher tenure rules, seniority policies and the dismissal process — an overhaul of which could upend controversial job security for instructors.

The lawsuit, filed by the nonprofit, advocacy group Students Matter, contends that these education laws are a violation of the Constitution's equal protection guarantee because they do not ensure that all students have access to an adequate education.

Vergara versus California, filed on behalf of nine students and their families, seeks to revamp a dismissal process that the plaintiffs say is too costly and time consuming, lengthen the time it takes for instructors to gain tenure and dismantle the "last hired, first fired" policies that fail to consider teacher effectiveness.

The lawsuit aims to protect the rights of students, teachers and school districts against a "gross disparity" in educational opportunity, lawyers for the plaintiffs said.

The debate over teacher effectiveness has become increasingly contentious in recent years as school systems, including the Los Angeles Unified School District, try to link students' standardized test scores to instructors' evaluations, rather than keep using reviews in which no test data are included and nearly all teachers are rated as satisfactory. The dismissal process also has come under fire in recent years for the difficulty it causes school districts that seek to fire teachers accused of misconduct against students.

Teachers unions have vigorously defended tenure, seniority and dismissal rules, calling them crucial safeguards and essential to recruiting and retaining quality instructors. The lawsuit, they contend, is misguided and ignores the true causes of problems in education, such as drops in state funding.

"If you give teachers resources and appropriate class sizes, principals and superintendents that support them — they will be successful in increasing student achievement," said Jim Finberg, an attorney representing the California Teachers Assn.

Finberg said wealthy benefactors and special interests are attempting to use their money to force their policy views on the state.

"California teachers care deeply about students and welcome a policy debate on how best to improve California schools," he said. "But that debate should be in the Legislature, not in a courtroom."

The plaintiffs, meanwhile, will try to prove that the laws themselves prevent administrators from removing ineffective teachers, thus lowering the quality of the teacher pool and contributing to an inadequate education for some students.

And the courthouse is just the place to do that, their attorneys said.

"The job of the court is to make sure the laws don't hurt kids," said Marcellus McRae, an attorney for the plaintiffs.

Theodore J. Boutrous Jr., who also represents the plaintiffs, said the laws far exceed reasonable job protections and create an environment in which ineffective teachers are immune to scrutiny and consequences for poor job performance. Many students — overwhelmingly those who are minority and low-income — are destined to suffer from ineffective and unequal instruction because administrators are unable to remove ineffective teachers from schools, he said.

"It is virtually impossible to get them out of the system," Boutrous said.

The California Department of Education defended the laws. It contends that districts have the opportunity and discretion to remove ineffective teachers from classrooms and to decide whether to grant tenure.

"There is nothing in the law that prevents districts from making sure unqualified or unsuitable teachers don't become permanent, just as there is nothing that prevents them from removing teachers from the classroom when necessary," the department said in a written statement. "In fact, as the evidence will show, it's quite the opposite."

L.A. schools Supt. John Deasy, who declined to comment because he is a witness in the case, is a supporter of the effort to repeal the statutes. The lawsuit initially targeted the Los Angeles Unified School district and two other school systems, as well as California officials and state government. But the organization instead decided to focus on the state, dropping L.A. Unified.

In a recorded deposition, Deasy expressed frustration about having little time to decide whether to grant tenure to a teacher and about the laborious, expensive process of dismissing them.

12.56 | 0 komentar | Read More

Checking out Broadway's old theaters of the superb

All that was missing Saturday were the searchlights as thousands filed through theater lobby doors to get a rare glimpse of the grand old movie palaces that line Broadway in downtown Los Angeles.

"This is like discovering treasure in an old tomb," marveled Venice architect Peter Culley as he stepped from the opulent 2,000-seat Los Angeles Theatre, which opened in 1931. "This is the first time I've been here. We're really surprised because it doesn't give the impression of being this large from the street."

His wife, high school English teacher Lynn Culley, was amazed by the ornate decorative touches: the crystal chandeliers, the marble women's restrooms in the basement, the 60-foot-wide curtain with three-dimensional figures sewn on it to re-create a 1800s French scene.

"The fixtures are so detailed. I don't think people realize there are still places like this here," she said.

Six of the street's dozen movie theaters were open to the public Saturday, and representatives of the Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation were on hand to lead tours.

"It's a big surprise to a lot of people today to see these theaters are still here. A small number of people have known about these for decades," said Escott Norton, a downtown home designer who is the foundation's executive director.

Not on public view were the 1931 Roxie, which houses a clothing store, and the Arcade and the Cameo, which opened in 1910 and are taken up by a storage space and a jewelry store. Also missing were the 1921 State, now used as a church, the 1917 Rialto, now an Urban Outfitters store, and the 1927 United Artists Theatre at the new Ace Hotel.

The Ace Hotel's theater was being readied for a Sunday night Grammy party but will be open to visitors on Feb. 1, said Hillsman Wright, a co-founder of the 27-year-old foundation.

Wright termed the Roxie, Arcade and Cameo theaters "the orphans of the street." They sit in a row in the 500 block of Broadway and are ripe for development as entertainment venues, he said. "They could share the sidewalk and a joint lobby. These three have amazing potential, and their owner, Joseph Hellen, is open to finding someone to insure these theaters' long-term survival," he said.

Wright, a 62-year-old semi-retired special events consultant from Venice, characterized the conversion of the Rialto into a clothing store and the restoration of its bright neon marquee as "a win," explaining that it could easily be converted back into an entertainment venue if Urban Outfitters ever leaves. He said the clothing chain is keeping the theater's past alive by projecting videos on the back wall where the Rialto's screen once hung.

The Globe Theatre, which opened in 1913 as the Morosco Theatre, is already being turned into an entertainment center by Frenchman Erik Chol. Its sloping floor was leveled out in 1987 when the movie house closed and the space was used as a swap meet. Aldric Angelier, an associate of Chol, said corporate gatherings, fashion shows and rock music performances will be scheduled once construction ends later this year.

"Even though they filled in the orchestra pit, I'm thankful it's still around," said Kim Rawley, a college English teacher from Lancaster, after emerging from the Globe.

At the 1918 Million Dollar Theatre, El Segundo account manager Robyn Walsh stepped from the auditorium and pronounced it "absolutely gorgeous … it's a hidden treasure."

And Michael Hart, a magazine editor from Mount Washington, said he was making a mental note to return to the Million Dollar to experience a movie. The theater is used for occasional screenings.

Kevin Truong, an insurance contractor from Westminster, was surprised that downtown's stand-alone theaters have survived in the era of multiplexes.

But a friend, Brea medical biller Staci Louie, said Broadway is the perfect place for such spectacular venues.

"This whole street is filled with old buildings and great architecture," she said.


12.56 | 0 komentar | Read More

For the record

New Orleans recovery: In the Jan. 19 Section A, an article about the recovery of the Lower 9th Ward in New Orleans said that the nonprofit group Make It Right had built 100 homes and planned to erect an additional 150. The group plans to build a total of 150 homes, 100 of which have been built.

Mideast allies: In the Jan. 25 Section A, an article about U.S. allies' concerns that the Obama administration is scaling back its role in the Middle East said that Iran agreed Jan. 20 to a six-month interim deal that calls for a partial lifting of sanctions in exchange for a partial freeze on its nuclear enrichment work. Iran agreed to a deal in November, and it took effect Jan. 20.

Homicide Report: In the Jan. 19 Section A, an article about the neighborhood with Los Angeles County's highest homicide rate gave the wrong age for Jacky Pineda, whose fiance was killed in December. She is 27, not 22.

Sheriff's candidate: An article in the Jan. 23 LATExtra section about who might be appointed to replace resigning Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca on an interim basis misspelled the last name of a candidate for sheriff in the election later this year. The candidate is Assistant Sheriff Jim Hellmold, not Hellmond.

9/11 museum: In the Jan. 25 Section A, an article about the 9/11 Memorial Museum in New York said that Charles G. Wolf is a member of the 9/11 museum board. He is not.

12.56 | 0 komentar | Read More

LAPD officers didn't abuse bank executive, jury finds

Written By kolimtiga on Sabtu, 25 Januari 2014 | 12.56

A federal jury found Friday that two Los Angeles police officers had not used excessive force when arresting a onetime bank and Hollywood executive whom they believed to be under the influence of drugs known as bath salts.

Brian Mulligan, 54, a former Deutsche Bank vice chairman, sued the Los Angeles Police Department and two of its officers, claiming that James Nichols and John Miller had used batons to break his nose and shoulder during the May 16, 2012, encounter.

After hearing three days of testimony, jurors took less than three hours to reach a verdict, finding that the officers had not violated Mulligan's federal or state civil rights or battered him.

Much of the trial focused on Mulligan's mental state that night.

On the witness stand, the onetime co-chairman of Universal Pictures admitted to using bath salts — a legal, synthetic substance that can have effects similar to cocaine — 20 times to help himself sleep. But, Mulligan said, he had not ingested the drugs in the two weeks before his arrest.

The officers, however, testified that Mulligan told them he had consumed the drug four days before and acted strangely during their initial encounter with him. They said that during a second interaction, Mulligan began "snarling," "foaming at the mouth" and held his hands up like claws before trying to tackle Nichols.

Nichols told jurors that he couldn't have hit the executive with his baton during the incident because he had left it in the police cruiser.

"I am happy the truth came out," Miller said outside the Edward R. Roybal Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse in downtown Los Angeles after the verdict. "This means the world to me. We did nothing wrong. The jurors listened and they knew the truth." As Miller hugged his mother, Nichols stood nearby, close to tears.

Peter Ferguson, Nichols' attorney, said the only people to support Mulligan's version of events were the plaintiff's paid expert witnesses. A Texas engineer and physician testified on Mulligan's behalf that only a baton could have caused his injuries.

Mulligan and his lead attorney, Louis "Skip" Miller, declined to comment after the verdict.

Assistant City Atty. Denise Zimmerman, who represented Miller and the LAPD, said the case came down to credibility, given the opposing versions of events. In closing arguments, she told jurors that the officers were trying to help a man in the middle of a drug-induced psychosis. Mulligan testified that he had gone to Eagle Rock to buy marijuana but got scared after being detained by a law enforcement officer he could not identify and seeing someone being tortured.

Nicholas and Miller testified that they detained Mulligan — who was sweaty and disheveled — at Occidental College in Eagle Rock about 10:40 that evening after responding to reports of a man trying to break into cars. A search of Mulligan's car turned up $3,000 in cash and containers marked "white lightning" — a bath salts brand. The officers said that after determining Mulligan was not under the influence of illegal narcotics, they took him to the Highland Park Motel at his request.

Miller testified that the officers spotted Mulligan pushing a trash can in the street shortly before 1 a.m. They confronted him, and he tried to attack Nichols. Both officers recounted that as they tried to handcuff Mulligan, he bucked and hit his head on the ground. Miller testified that he jabbed Mulligan's ribs with a baton.

According to Mulligan, he was taken to the hotel against his will and warned that he would be killed if he left. He said the officers caught him trying to do so and that Nichols broke his nose with a baton, leading him to black out.

Of the unanimous verdict, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck said: "My thanks to the … jury for their thoughtful deliberation.

"The decision was just."


12.56 | 0 komentar | Read More

L.A. hospitals gird for rise in flu cases

Despite a statewide drop in reported influenza cases, Los Angeles hospitals are preparing for this year's season to worsen in the coming weeks, fearful of the deadly H1N1 "swine flu" virus strain that is to blame for most of this year's flu deaths.

H1N1 killed thousands of people around the world in 2009. That has hospitals worried about the spread of the illness, especially since California's flu deaths this year have dramatically outpaced last year's at this time.

Dr. Rekha Murthy, epidemiologist at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, said that starting Monday the hospital will require that visitors wear masks — whether or not they're sick — and that patients see only two visitors at a time. The last time flu prevention measures were stepped up like this, she said, was during the 2009 pandemic.

"I think we learned at that time that we've got to act quickly," she said.

This year's flu is fast-moving. State health officials Friday reported 95 confirmed deaths from influenza among people under 65, with an additional 51 cases likely to be confirmed next week. That would put this year's flu fatalities at 146 so far.

At this time last year, nine deaths had been confirmed, and the season ended with a total of only 106.

In part, the higher number of deaths this year compared with this time last year is because the season began earlier, said state epidemiologist Dr. Gil Chavez in a conference call with reporters Friday. It's also because H1N1 — which accounts for 75 of the 95 confirmed deaths — tends to affect younger people more than the other strains of flu present this season.

He added that for the week ending Jan. 18 there was a decline in flu-related hospitalizations and outpatient visits in the state. It remains unclear whether that suggests a coming drop in flu cases, he said.

"It's too early to tell ... whether that's the beginning of a reversal or just a temporary change," he said.

Los Angeles County hasn't released data for the week ending Jan. 18, but area hospitals agreed that they haven't seen a drop in the number of flu-related hospitalizations or outpatient visits due to the flu. Murthy said Cedars-Sinai said has seen a steady increase in flu patients since mid-December.

At Children's Hospital Los Angeles, there were 54 inpatient and outpatient flu cases as of Jan. 13. As of Friday, the number had risen to 91.

Mary Virgallito, clinical administrator of infection prevention and control for the hospital, said she expects more weeks like this one and a peak in coming weeks.

Similarly, Dr. Paul Holtom, epidemiologist for USC Keck Hospital and Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center, said those facilities haven't seen any sign of a decrease and are still dealing with "a tremendous increase of numbers of people who are hospitalized, and a very significant increase of people who are severely ill from influenza."

In the midst of this bad flu season, hospitals are pushing for as many of their staff members as possible to get flu shots. Numbers are up, they say, in part because of a county mandate that required all health staff to either be vaccinated or to wear a mask at work and because people saw in the 2009 season how dangerous the flu can be.

At Olive View Medical Center, immunization rates among staff have increased from 50% to roughly 75%, said Dr. Suzanne Donovan, medical director of infection control. Several measures to prevent the spread of illness at that hospital have been in place since the 2009 pandemic, such as not allowing visitors under age 12 into the neonatal intensive care unit and the screening of all other visitors.

Dr. T. Warner Hudson, medical director of occupational and employee health at UCLA Medical Center, said officials there are encouraging everyone to get vaccinated. He added that UCLA hospitals ramped up their efforts to encourage sick people not to visit patients.

"We're seeing the kind of thing you expect to see when there's kind of an echo of the pandemic of 2009," he said.

Most Californians who died of the flu had underlying risk factors, including pregnancy, asthma or obesity, according to state epidemiologist James Watt.

In Los Angeles County, the 10 adults who had died as of Jan. 11 all had underlying medical conditions or a medical history that put them at risk. The top three co-morbidities in those patients were being overweight or obese, hypertension and heart disease.

"We're kind of at the liftoff of the season," Hudson said. "If you haven't gotten your flu vaccine, run and get it as quickly as you can."


12.56 | 0 komentar | Read More

Jockeying for memorabilia at Hollywood Park

If you have memories of a place that stretch over a lifetime — from when you were a kid there to when you brought your kids and then their kids — it's hard to go back and see it empty and unloved, the flowers unwatered and dead, dust coating the floors and the benches.

It all happened so quickly at Hollywood Park, where thoroughbreds last thundered down the track just a month ago. Now, with that day's racing slips still scattered about the stands, everything that can be removed is being sold off: the ticket booths, the Jumbotron, the jockeys' impossibly small, narrow bunk beds.

The 75-year-old Inglewood property was open Wednesday and Thursday to anyone wanting to preview the items in the two-day auction, which ends Saturday.

Special events planners and owners of racetracks and restaurants carried around clipboards to make notes on the big stuff: the floodlights, the tractors, the walk-in coolers, the cement mixer, the hot-walking machines used to cool down the horses.

Fans and former employees were drawn to potentially affordable memorabilia: stacks of brightly colored saddle cloths, lawn jockeys from the winner's circle, bobbleheads of trainer Bob Baffert, framed photos of Seabiscuit, Citation and Bill Shoemaker on Swaps, DVDs by the boxful of Zenyatta and Lava Man.

They could touch the Toledo scale on which winning jockeys were weighed out. They also got one last chance to stand in the stands, stare at the track, maybe replaying a race.

Bright pink auction tags were everywhere, from ground level to the rooftop boxes, and the public was free to wander as never before — into the jockeys' locker rooms and sauna, the members-only Turf Club, the paddocks.

They could ride in a pink-tagged white van serving as a shuttle bus to the infield — and there find a last remaining pink flamingo and a pink-tagged swan boat in which the Goose Girls of yesteryear used to wave at the crowds from the infield lakes.

Sure, many people prefer the more vintage look of Santa Anita and Del Mar. But this spot south of L.A., especially dear to fans living nearby, was swanky in its day.

It was founded with the help of Hollywood moguls and stars. In the early years, you might go there and glimpse Claudette Colbert or Joan Crawford or Fred Astaire, who owned racehorses.

It was a place people used to dress up to visit, to eat steak at the Turf Club.

"It's heartbreaking. This was Zenyatta's home. This was the home of the champions. I never missed a Zenyatta race. I come here every Thanksgiving," said Sharon Liveten, 55, as she stood in the memorabilia room. "There are people who came here who wouldn't go to Santa Anita. They were locals. It was a neat kind of crowd."

The plans for the 238-acre site's future as Hollywood Park Tomorrow — a mixed-use development with homes, shops, movie theaters and a big hotel — don't sit well with Liveten and others who treasure the Hollywood Park of yesterday.

"It should have been a historical monument," said Charles Francis, 64, a retired tile-setter who first visited the track as a child and as a teenager worked as a groom and hot walker for trainer Charles Whittingham.

In the late 1970s, Francis' wife, Darlana, was out of work when she came to Hollywood Park with a friend, who fronted her the money to bet. She won $680.

"It meant a hell of a lot," she said Thursday as she walked past rows of empty betting windows.

Their friend Earl Warren Sr. said he liked to pop in and out some days when he was still working as a painter. "I would come here and bet, eat my chicken wings," he said. "I had a ball here, mm-hmmm. Yeah, I had a real nice time here."

Good memories are powerful. Nostalgia files away facts that don't fit.

Even though average attendance had fallen off a cliff in recent decades — dropping to below 4,000 last summer — and simulcasts and off-track betting kept many fans from making the trip, only a few of those who came this week to look and remember owned up to visiting less.

One who did was Stan Thornton, 62, of Inglewood, as he stepped into the winner's circle.

"I didn't come here on a regular basis … and I live literally straight across from here," he said, pointing out past the infield. "Sign of the times, you know. One goes and one comes."

Then he went, in search of the jockeys' rec room.


Follow City Beat @latimescitybeaton Twitter and at Los Angeles Times City Beaton Facebook.

12.56 | 0 komentar | Read More

Campaign organization pays state $300,000 of $11 million owed

SACRAMENTO — A campaign group that received $11 million in "dark" political contributions and now owes it to the state has paid only $300,000.

California's ethics agency on Friday announced receipt of the funds from the Small Business Action Committee, whose president said the group would pay no more and would close.

The state has yet to collect any money from a second group, the California Future Fund, which owes $4 million but has shut down. An attorney for the organization did not return calls Friday.

The two organizations received the contributions in 2012 from Arizona nonprofit groups that kept mum about where the money had come from.

After investigating the donations, the state found that the source of the funds had not been properly reported by the Arizona groups, and thus the contributions were tainted.

The California committees were ordered to forfeit equivalent sums to the general fund, where the money can pay for government services.

The Arizona groups have paid $1 million in fines for their role in hiding the donors' identities.

On Friday, a Fair Political Practices Commission official called the $300,000 payment "a win for Californians and for campaign finance disclosure."

"This case had unique circumstances because it involved two of the largest campaign contributions ever made in California," said Gary Winuk, the commission's chief of enforcement.

Joel Fox, president of the Small Business Action Committee, said his group settled its case reluctantly.

"As a result of an obscure law, the FPPC was required to seek a judgment for disgorgement," Fox said.

He disputes the constitutionality of that law but said he preferred not to fight the state in court. He views the $300,000 payment as a settlement, he said.

Kathay Feng, president of California Common Cause, noted that the $300,000 is "a small fraction" of the $15 million that the two groups owe the state.

"The difficulty of collecting these kinds of fines only underscores the need for stronger campaign disclosure legislation in California," she said, "to ensure that voters are able to make informed decisions based on who is funding campaigns."

The money from Arizona went to the fight against Gov. Jerry Brown's 2012 ballot measure to increase taxes, which voters passed, and to the promotion of a measure intended to reduce the influence of unions, which was defeated.

Originally, money was donated to a Phoenix nonprofit called the Center to Protect Patient Rights, which is run by a political consultant tied to billionaire Republican contributors Charles and David Koch.

The center sent money to the campaign committees, which spent it on political advertising.


12.56 | 0 komentar | Read More

Alhambra vice principal, accused of sex abuse, quits; inquiry begins

Written By kolimtiga on Jumat, 24 Januari 2014 | 12.56

Authorities are investigating sexual abuse allegations against a former Alhambra vice principal made by a former student who secretly recorded what she presented as a telephone confrontation with the educator and posted the video on YouTube.

The case has generated wide attention because the video went viral, racking up more than 1 million views since last Friday.

Andrea Cardosa, 40, resigned from her post at Alhambra High School last Friday, a few hours after the video went live and someone forwarded it to school administrators.

Jamie Carillo, 28, says Cardosa coerced her into a sexual relationship when she was an eighth-grader at a Riverside middle school in the late 1990s. At the time, Cardosa was a teacher there.

Carillo said she posted the video on YouTube because she thought it was the only way to get justice.

On Tuesday, a second woman came forward with allegations against Cardosa, according to Riverside police.

"We believe the video is serious enough to investigate. We have detectives working on this," Riverside police spokesman Val Graham said.

Cardosa did not respond to requests for comment.

In the nine-minute video, Carillo is shown dialing a number using speaker-phone mode. A woman answers, telling her she has reached Alhambra High School. Carillo asks for "Andrea Cardosa." She is redirected twice. Then a woman answers and agrees that she is Cardosa.

"You brainwashed me and you manipulated me.... What you did was wrong," Carillo says in the video.

"It wasn't anything I intended," the woman says quietly. "I don't even know what happened."

"You ruined my life. You ruined my childhood. Do you realize that?" Carillo responds, her voice raised. "You sicken me. You sicken me. And every day when I think about what you did, you sicken me."

"I regret it every day," the woman says. "Every day."

Alhambra school officials would not comment on whether Cardosa's resignation was connected to the video.

Laura Tellez-Gagliano, superintendent of the Alhambra Unified School District, said Cardosa had worked in Alhambra for less than four months and came with "stellar" recommendations.

Before arriving at Alhambra, Cardosa worked for three other school districts, teaching, serving as vice principal and coaching girls' sports.

Each time she was hired, Cardosa passed all necessary background checks, according to officials at the Riverside Unified School District, Val Verde Unified School District and Coalinga-Huron Joint Unified School District.

Carillo's attorney, David Ring, said Riverside police and school officials interviewed Carrillo and Cardosa in 1999 but no charges were filed. Riverside police declined to comment on whether there was an investigation, and school officials said they were not aware of prior accusations against Cardosa.

Because Carillo appears to have recorded the conversation without the other party's knowledge, it's unclear whether prosecutors can use the video as evidence. California law generally prohibits individuals from recording people without their knowledge.

And spreading such a recording on YouTube is risky, said Laurie Levenson, a professor at Loyola Law School.

"It's fine to get the community involved, but if it spills over into vigilantism, then that becomes problematic," Levenson said.

The California statute of limitations on child sexual abuse cases requires victims to come forward before their 28th birthday or, in some cases, within 10 years of the alleged offense.

Certain exceptions to the law allow the prosecution of cases of substantial sexual abuse, but the claims must be backed by corroborating evidence such as electronic records or witnesses, said defense attorney Alison Triessl, who is not involved in the case.


12.56 | 0 komentar | Read More

ICE agrees to stop shackling some defendants for court

Immigrants fighting deportation in San Francisco will no longer be shackled during most court hearings, according to a settlement reached with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The settlement, which received preliminary approval from a federal judge Thursday, is limited to San Francisco Immigration Court but could affect the way immigrants are treated in other jurisdictions.

People held at detention centers in the San Francisco area are transported to court shackled at the wrists, waist and ankles, attorneys for four immigrants wrote in a federal lawsuit filed in 2011. The shackles are kept on during court hearings, which is humiliating to immigrants and may predispose judges to view them as criminals, the attorneys wrote.

Although some immigration detainees have been convicted of criminal offenses, others are locked up because they cannot afford a bond as they contest their deportations.

"Often, the difference between showing up to a hearing in a suit like I'm wearing vs. a jumpsuit is the ability to pay $5,000 bond," said Paul Chavez, senior attorney at the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area, which litigated the class-action case along with the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California and attorneys from Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati.

Shackling is a blanket policy in San Francisco and may not be as widespread in other areas. Plaintiffs' attorneys said they hope the settlement creates a precedent to reduce the shackling of immigration detainees throughout the country.

In Southern California, immigrants from Orange County detention facilities are usually shackled during hearings in downtown Los Angeles, said Michael Kaufman, a staff attorney with the ACLU of Southern California.

"It's not only inhumane and uncomfortable, but it gives off the wrong image," Kaufman said. "The judge is looking at somebody in a jumpsuit and handcuffs, as if they present some kind of risk and safety threat, which is not the case."

But ICE seemed to rule out a broad application of the San Francisco rules. In a written statement, the agency said that use of restraints depends on the "specifics of the given situation," adding that "a uniform, 'one size fits all' policy is not practical or advisable."

Under the settlement, detainees will not be shackled at San Francisco Immigration Court hearings unless they are an escape risk or become violent.

An exception is initial scheduling hearings, when 20 or 30 detainees appear at once. Shackles can still be used at those hearings, called master calendar hearings, but detainees can seek an exception for medical reasons. The practice of "daisy chaining," or chaining many detainees to one another, will be prohibited.

The settlement also provides for private consultation rooms for detainees to meet with their attorneys on master calendar days.

"ICE is committed to preserving the dignity and welfare of all those in our custody" and "is also obligated to ensure the safety of the public and employees visiting or working in federal buildings that house court proceedings," the agency said in a written statement. "ICE has worked with the plaintiffs to arrive at an agreement which affords the agency the flexibility to do both."

The plaintiffs are from Brazil, Guatemala, Mexico and China. Several have medical conditions that make wearing shackles especially painful. According to a court filing, all said the shackles made them feel ashamed when facing a judge.

Esmar Cifuentes, the Guatemalan detainee, worried that when "my family comes to see me … my children might think I did something evil like kill somebody."


12.56 | 0 komentar | Read More

Smith & Wesson joins fight against 'microstamping'

SACRAMENTO — Gun maker Smith & Wesson announced Thursday that it would stop selling newly designed semiautomatic pistols in California because of a state law requiring those firearms to imprint a unique, identifying "microstamp" on bullet casings.

The law, signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2007 but not implemented until May 2013, is intended to help police investigators link shell casings found at crime scenes to a specific gun.

Smith & Wesson joins gun maker Sturm, Ruger & Co. in halting the sales. Both companies criticized the microstamping requirement as costly, unreliable and ineffective, saying that there is no evidence that it will help solve crimes.

Smith & Wesson President and Chief Executive James Debney, in a statement released Thursday, said the law was poorly conceived and would make it impossible for Californians to have "access to the best products with the latest innovations."

Los Angeles City Atty. Mike Feuer, who introduced the legislation while serving in the state Assembly, called the gun lobby's objections "baloney." He said the new technology gives police critical evidence in handgun-related killings, hundreds of which go unsolved every year, and the legislation had wide support from law enforcement agencies.

"This law is about solving gun crimes, and it's a law that would be effective in doing that if only the gun lobby would step aside," Feuer said.

Feuer said microstamping technology has been reliable and available since before the 2007 law was passed and costs only a few dollars per gun to install — although gun makers dispute this.

"Their posturing doesn't surprise me," Feuer said of the manufacturers. "We all know that the gun lobby has no problem innovating when it comes to making guns more lethal."

The microstamping requirement is limited to newly designed semiautomatic handguns and older models that have been updated or modified by gun makers. Those semiautomatic pistols are required to have a microscopic etching identifying the make, model and serial number in two places on the weapon, presumably the firing pin and barrel, allowing the information to be stamped on a bullet casing when the pistol is fired.

Chuck Michel, a Long Beach attorney who represents the National Rifle Assn. in California, said the law punishes gun makers who offer safer new handguns or who make safety improvements to older models. The restriction also could affect law enforcement agencies seeking to order newly designed firearms that are now banned, he said.

"Hopefully, we can convince some of the regulators to take a look at their policy," Michel said. "Barring that, there's going to be legislation proposed to put these guns back on the roster."

Two organizations representing gun makers, the National Shooting Sports Foundation and the Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers Institute, filed a lawsuit in January in Fresno County seeking to invalidate the law. The suit argues that studies have revealed too many questions about the technology and cost to require its use on new guns.

Implementation of the law was delayed until last year, when the state attorney general's office could certify that the microstamping technology was not restricted by patent protections.


12.56 | 0 komentar | Read More

Cameras placed in L.A. County jails have been effective, report says

The hundreds of cameras installed inside Los Angeles County jails in response to an inmate abuse scandal have been powerful tools in vetting allegations against jailers, according to a watchdog report released Thursday.

For years, critics of the Sheriff's Department's jails pushed the agency to install cameras in the lockups since independent witnesses are rarely present when deputies use force. In 2011, after an onslaught of inmate abuse allegations, the department began installing hundreds of cameras.

The report released by the agency's civilian monitor Thursday found that the footage has helped to exonerate deputies who were falsely accused and build cases against those who break the rules.

"The department now has a video record of 90% of force incidents in its downtown jails and is no longer completely reliant on 'observations' of inmates and jail deputies," the report by Michael Gennaco's Office of Independent Review stated.

Dozens of cameras were installed inside the downtown Men's Central Jail in 2011 — when the FBI's investigation of deputy misconduct inside the lockups first became publicly known. Today there are 705 cameras in the facility, with about 840 more in the sheriff's other downtown jail facilities, Twin Towers and the Inmate Reception Center.

Gennaco's report found that there are still areas of the lockups that cameras don't cover, causing shortcomings in some investigations, but that overall, use-of-force investigations have improved because of the cameras.

In one case, an inmate accused a deputy of injuring him by violently pulling his handcuffed arms upward. But a recording of the incident showed that there was no force used by the deputy.

In another case, a prisoner filled out a complaint form alleging he had been handcuffed and left in a recreation area for more than three hours, before being violently grabbed and slammed into a door.

A supervisor located the footage of the incident and "discovered that much of the inmate's complaint was substantiated by the video evidence," according to the report. "While there were some inconsistencies between the inmate's statement and the video — most notably that the inmate did not appear to be slammed into a door or wall — he did accurately describe rough handling by the deputy,"

The deputy had not reported the force, and eventually was given "a significant suspension."

The report comes at a tumultuous time in the Sheriff's Department's history. Sheriff Lee Baca, who recently announced his unexpected retirement amid a string of scandals relating to inmate abuse and bad hiring, will be stepping down next week. And the future of the Office of Independent Review, which issued the report Thursday, is unclear.

A new civilian monitor with expanded authority — the Office of the Inspector General — was created recently, and is preparing to begin work. Some county supervisors had criticized Gennaco for not doing more to expose problems in the Sheriff's Department. Gennaco has countered by saying his recommendations for reform were not heeded.

As is typical in Gennaco's reports, recent cases of deputy misconduct were highlighted.

In one case, a deputy was fired after he was accused of sexually assaulting a woman who came in for a vehicle inspection after repairing a broken headlight. He allegedly directed her to go to his office, then leered at her body and told her he liked her breasts, before grabbing them, according to the report.

Later, the deputy was accused of getting in her car and directing her to drive into a parking structure. She said she tried to leave, but he asked her to promise she would come back before taking her hand and placing it on his groin. He then made further suggestive comments, according to the report.

The deputy denied all allegations, and prosecutors declined to file charges, citing a lack of evidence. But an administrative investigation by the Sheriff's Department found that he violated multiple policies — including committing immoral conduct and making derogatory statements — and he was fired.


12.56 | 0 komentar | Read More

Mark Ridley-Thomas acknowledges home improvements by county workers

Written By kolimtiga on Rabu, 22 Januari 2014 | 12.56

Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas acknowledged Tuesday that a taxpayer-funded project to install a security system in a converted garage at his home involved improvements "over and above" that job, but said he reimbursed the county for the upgrades.

The Times had disclosed that county-paid crews worked at the supervisor's Leimert Park home for a week and replaced the garage's interior walls, installed electrical wiring and equipment, and put in appliances, including a wall-mounted air conditioner and heater and a television.

Ridley-Thomas has declined repeated requests from The Times to comment on the project, and the county has not released any documentation of reimbursements.

In an interview on radio station KCRW-FM (89.9), Ridley-Thomas said he repaid the county nearly $4,000 for the cost of the appliances and extra labor. He did not offer a breakdown of the reimbursements or say when he made them.

The county has provided to The Times heavily redacted records that list the cost of the security work at $10,038. It was unclear whether that amount accounted for any reimbursements.

In the segment on KCRW's "Which Way L.A.," Ridley-Thomas said the garage had been converted before he bought the home more than 20 years ago. A check of city databases turned up no permits for the conversion or for the more recent work by the county.

Ridley-Thomas did not address why the county project was done without permits. Last week, after a Times report on the garage work, the Los Angeles Building and Safety Department opened an investigation into the conversion.

Department spokesman Luke Zamperini said Tuesday that the inquiry was ongoing. He said current owners of a home must obtain permits for a garage conversion even if the work was done before they bought the house.

Zamperini also said the work performed in September by the county on Ridley-Thomas' garage required permits. The manager of the project had told The Times he believed the county crews needed no permits because they are authorized to inspect their own work.

Ridley-Thomas criticized The Times for publishing stories on the security project "half cocked," saying the county had told the newspaper it was still gathering documents in response to a request under the state's Public Records Act.

"Rather than waiting for the facts to reveal themselves, the Times reporters have chosen to engage in what is reducible to innuendo, to smear and is short on fact," he said during the radio interview. "They chose to start writing before they had the facts and they've gotten a number of facts wrong, straight-out wrong."

When asked by program host Warren Olney to identify errors in the reporting, Ridley-Thomas said: "They keep making a point of what was supposedly done over and above that which is defined as security. Everything that was done over and above that was paid for. It's documented."

The Times submitted its records request a month ago asking for documents showing work done at the homes of all five county supervisors during the last five years. The county said it was continuing to search for records.

The Times has reported that the project manager, John Thompson, who works for the county Internal Services Department, said Ridley-Thomas paid for the air-and-heat unit and a refrigerator the crews installed. Another person familiar with the work, who asked not to be named, said he was told Ridley-Thomas paid for the television as well.

The county crews, which included contract workers, tore out wood paneling in the garage and replaced it with drywall, Thompson said. They dug a 60-foot-long, 30-inch-deep trench across Ridley-Thomas' property to run electrical conduit from the main house to the garage, Thompson said, and installed an electrical subpanel in the garage to make more power available to the structure.

Thompson said he suggested replacing the paneling because that would make it easier to run wiring behind the walls for the security alarms. In addition, he said the result would be more pleasing to the eye.

He said he recommended installing the air conditioner because the garage was hot.

Alarm experts said in interviews that the security system probably could have been put in without removing walls or adding an electrical subpanel.

Jessica Levinson, a Loyola Law School professor who studies governmental ethics, said it was troubling that an elected official would use government workers to perform work on a private residence, even if the official reimbursed taxpayers.

"The question becomes, 'What else would the workers be doing at that time?'" Levinson said. "Does reimbursement make the taxpayer whole? Is fair-market value paid?

"Our public officials should not appear to be using their position for their own benefit. These accusations are dispiriting to people who don't have access to county workers to improve their residences."



12.56 | 0 komentar | Read More
techieblogger.com Techie Blogger Techie Blogger