A dispute over more than $75,000 in questionable billings to the Southern California Rapid Transit District by a Washington lobbying firm has been resolved with most of the charges accounted for by the firm, according to a report by the RTD's inspector general.
The firm, Bill Hecht & Associates, will reimburse the transit district $5,274 for unauthorized first-class air travel, but has satisfied auditors that $70,000 in challenged labor billings were appropriate. The firm has been paid $524,000 in the last four years.
RTD Inspector General Ernesto Fuentes, whose office initially questioned the billings, said the problem is that past contracts with lobbyists are "very vague on type of (expenditure) reporting" required, a problem he hopes will be corrected under newly approved agreements. Fuentes, who was hired to investigate mismanagement and waste earlier this year, said he would have preferred better accounting by lobbying contractors for their billings. But he added, "It's difficult to demand different types of billing" retroactively.
First-ever audits of RTD's network of lobbying firms were ordered after The Times disclosed lax controls on the expenditures by lobbyists, who were paid more than $1 million from 1983 through 1986, primarily to lobby in Washington and Sacramento for Metro Rail funds.