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Report Criticizes City Handling of 1989 Police Bond OKd by Voters

November 10, 1998|BETH SHUSTER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

As the mayor and the City Council consider asking voters to approve a billion-dollar bond package for new police and fire facilities, a survey of an earlier voter-approved police bond finds serious mismanagement and design flaws by the city agency overseeing the projects.

In a report released Monday, Los Angeles City Controller Rick Tuttle said lengthy delays in construction projects were caused by poor city oversight, leading to rising staff costs.

Those problems in the 1989 bond measure, which delayed the opening of two new police stations, should be corrected before voters are asked to approve new city bonds next spring, Tuttle said.

"I think there should be much more careful planning on the front end," Tuttle said.

While the study was being prepared, Mayor Richard Riordan and Council President John Ferraro have convened a committee to examine the new police and fire bond proposals in an effort to review department priorities.

"This controller's report validates all the things the mayor's been saying about accountability and oversight," said Deputy Mayor Jennifer Roth. "If you don't have those things, it translates into less than perfect implementation."

City Councilwoman Laura Chick, who heads the council's Public Safety Committee, said she was not surprised by the controller's findings and is committed to making changes before the voters are asked again to pay for large, new projects.

"It will be an on-time, on-budget commitment to the public," Chick said.

The 1989 bond measure, Proposition 2, gave the city authority to borrow $176 million for new police facilities.

Monday's survey, which mainly focused on how bond money was used to build the department's North Hollywood and 77th Street regional police stations, criticized the handling of the design and construction of those projects by the Bureau of Engineering, the city agency in charge of those projects.

Both projects were delayed more than a year, and both had numerous changes to the design and construction plans, increasing costs. The budget approved by the council in June 1997 showed the total staff costs of Proposition 2 projects increased 29%, to $205.6 million.

Interim City Engineer Thomas K. Connor, who has held that job for the last four months, acknowledged that the bureau could be more aggressive in overseeing these kinds of projects.

The survey also found that after the work was completed on the two stations, design flaws remained, some of which required additional costs to correct.

In all, the two stations took more than five years to complete, from the time of project approval to the completion of construction.

In a letter to Tuttle on the survey, Los Angeles Police Chief Bernard C. Parks said some of the delays were unavoidable, such as soil contamination problems that were uncovered during construction. Flawed design resulted in the failure to build public restrooms in a public area, Parks said.

Tuttle said even after it was apparent that construction costs of the two police stations were higher than expected, the city also underestimated post-construction expenses, forcing it to use other city revenues.

In another police survey released by Tuttle on Monday, the controller found that the Police Department has failed to adequately claim and collect allowable reimbursements from the state for training of LAPD officers.

The audit said the Police Department received a total of nearly $777,000 in training reimbursements from the LAPD Peace Officer Standards and Training Program and more than $128,000 for tuition charged to outside agency employees who use the LAPD training courses. The audit found that the LAPD could have been repaid nearly $168,000 in training costs and another $98,000 may not have been claimed by the department.

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