City Council Unanimously Rescinds 600K in LaBonge Discretionary Fund Transfers
LOS ANGELES–The Los Angeles City Council voted unanimously this morning to rescind over $600,000 in discretionary fund transfers made by termed out councilmember Tom LaBonge in his final days in office.
New councilmember David Ryu requested the motion to rescind, which was seconded by councilmember Joe Buscaino.
During public comment on the issue at this morning’s city council meeting, LaBonge made what is believed to be his first appearance before the council as a member of the general pubic.
Given two minutes to defend the transfers, which included funding for dead tree removal in Griffith Park, building a fence at the park’s Bird Sanctuary as well as the construction of a fence at Lake Hollywood in the Beachwood Canyon area, LaBonge told the council that the money came to him as “late funding” and he “saw an opportunity to help the district.”
He mentioned $18,330 in funds to extend summer hours at the Griffith Park pool and $25,000 in sidewalk repairs for what he called a “fall” situation on Larchmont Boulevard.
“We have the money,” he said, “to do things right now. . . . I may have left the City Council, but I have not left the city of Los Angeles.”
But Ryu said that while some of the projects may be appropriate, as the district’s new councilmember, he had not had a “proper review” of LaBonge’s transfer requests. Ryu said, that because he is in office now, he, not LaBonge, is ultimately responsible for how the funds are used.
“I have to have full accountability for these decisions,” he said.
The issue of LaBonge’s use of discretionary funds became a sore point in the election to succeed him. Ryu campaigned that use of so-called “slush funds” should have input from the community. Ryu has promised to set up what he calls a “Discretionary Use Task Force,” which his Chief of Staff Sarah Dusseault says is currently in progress.
Part of the funds that were rescinded this morning included $242,500 in donations to various non profits including the Ford Theater, Hollywood Wilshire YMCA, the Independent Shakespeare Co. and the Los Angeles Police Historical Society.