The transition team of Los Angeles Mayor-elect Richard Riordan met for the first time Monday and divided up assignments on staffing the new administration and arranging its initial priorities--tasks that must be completed before Riordan is sworn in July 1 as the city's first new mayor in 20 years.
The transition team and its staff gathered around a huge cherrywood table behind the closed doors of a conference room at Riordan's law office on the 29th floor of a downtown office tower.
Only one of the 16 appointees was missing: defeated mayoral candidate Nick Patsaouras, who was in Greece, attending to his ill father.
Transition chief William Wardlaw told reporters during a lunch break that the group divided into three subcommittees dealing with setting priorities for the new mayor, choosing new commissioners and selecting the mayor's senior staff.
But he refused to disclose which members of the transition team were assigned to the various committees, saying they could reach "better decisions . . . on very sensitive personnel matters" if they were not publicly identified and subjected to "undue burden or pressure."
Over the weekend, Wardlaw said, letters were sent on behalf of the mayor-elect, who is vacationing in Idaho, asking for resignations from all of approximately 200 commissioners appointed by Mayor Tom Bradley.
Wardlaw said Monday that the Riordan team has not decided how many of the commissioners will be replaced, "but the working assumption is that we're starting with a clean sheet of paper."
Transition team member Stan Sanders, who endorsed Riordan after his own unsuccessful primary campaign for mayor, has said that the team will not attempt to replace all of the commissioners right away, but will concentrate first on a few key commissions overseeing the police, harbor, airport and recreation and parks departments.
Riordan focused much of his campaign on promises involving matters under the jurisdiction of these commissions. For example, he vowed to increase public safety by leasing out Los Angeles International Airport and using the revenue to hire thousands more police officers.
In another matter, the Riordan camp announced that it had reached an agreement with the city Ethics Commission on a mechanism for using private funds to pay for the transition effort.
Wardlaw said a special fund-raising committee would be set up to raise money to pay staff salaries and other transition costs. He estimated transition costs at $50,000 to $100,000, and said any leftover money would be donated to the city's general fund.
But there were differences of opinion on the rules governing the fund raising.
Wardlaw said the committee would be allowed to accept unlimited contributions. However, Benjamin Bycel, executive director of the city Ethics Commission, said Monday that said donations would be limited to $1,000 per person as they were at the start of the campaign.
Wardlaw said no decision had been made on how to repay debts of the Riordan campaign.
The chief debt is a $2-million loan the candidate made to his own effort--in addition to $4 million he donated outright. All told, the Riordan campaign spent more than $8.5 million in the primary and general elections.
His was by far the most expensive campaign in Los Angeles history.
Riordan's campaign treasurer, David Gould, said Monday that bills are still coming in, as are checks from campaign pledges. He said that when the final tallies are made, "there probably will be a debt in addition to the $2 million" the campaign owes Riordan.
Wardlaw said that Riordan, whose personal fortune is estimated at about $100 million, has not decided whether to hold fund-raisers to recoup the $2 million he loaned himself.
"That is a very low priority in this period," Wardlaw said. "We have no plans at all to (hold fund-raisers to) repay that loan at this point in time."