Mayor Richard Riordan on Wednesday ordered the head of the Los Angeles Convention Center to immediately quit his job as a consultant to Hawaii's Convention Center Authority, saying the outside employment had gone far beyond the scope of what the mayor's office intended when it approved the arrangement in 1994.
"I hereby disapprove of your contract for outside employment," Riordan wrote in a letter faxed to Dick Walsh late Wednesday. "'Pursuant to the city's governmental ethics ordinance, all your activities with respect to that contract must cease."
Walsh, who has run the Convention Center since 1974, faxed a one-line response to Riordan minutes later, agreeing to end his relationship with the Hawaiian authority, which has paid him $80,000 over two years. He did not return calls for comment Wednesday, but released a written statement earlier in the day criticizing the mayor for first approving his work in Hawaii and then denouncing it.
"I am being put in the middle of a 'no-win' controversy," Walsh said in the statement. "I went through channels and received approval to do the consulting. Now, long after the fact, the approvals are being denied. I welcome a full review by the Ethics Commission."
Told of Walsh's resignation from the Hawaiian Authority, executive director Alan Hayashi said: "We certainly [will] miss his advice and counsel."
The Times reported Wednesday that Walsh, who earns $131,607 from his city post, has spent more than 1,000 hours--the equivalent of 60 workdays a year--helping build a convention center in Honolulu and has traveled to the islands a dozen times since July 1, 1994, billing Hawaiian taxpayers for more than $15,000 in expenses.
In 1994, Riordan's chiefs of staff twice approved requests from the Hawaiian Authority for Walsh to work on the project: first to help select an architect, then to "continue serving on our Design Evaluation Board." Documents show the first request specified a one-month time frame, the second had no time parameters.
None of the correspondence between the Hawaiian authority and the mayor's office uses the term "consultant," although Walsh's contract with the state of Hawaii--which Riordan's staff says they never saw--refers to him as such.
"Had Mr. Walsh ever requested approval of a long-term, personal consulting contract . . . it would have been denied immediately," the mayor said in a written statement Wednesday. "My office approved a narrowly focused short-term project, with an honoraria attached to it. There's a huge difference."
In his own statement, Walsh also disputed experts' comments in The Times article that the Honolulu center, which is scheduled to open in 1998, would compete with Los Angeles' facility, and that his agency has been struggling.
"The Los Angeles Convention Center enjoyed its greatest success this past fiscal year," Walsh said, citing gross revenues of $23 million.
The city's budget lists the center's revenues as $16 million for the just-concluded fiscal year, 1995-96, and taxpayers are paying $20 million a year to subsidize the facility because it has failed to meet expectations from its $500-million expansion in 1987.
"It is a major contributor to [the city] budget deficit," said mayoral budget director Chris O'Donnell. "The fact that he made incremental performance improvements does not in any way address the fact of where he is or should be in terms of the center's return on its investment."