The Los Angeles Board of Education agreed Tuesday to restore the money it had slashed from the inspector general's budget, saying the cuts would compromise investigations into waste and corruption.
Don Mullinax, the district's inspector general, told the board that budget cuts this year have left his office without adequate resources to do the job of probing questionable activity and auditing district departments.
The board granted Mullinax's request to keep his budget at $6.3 million, the same amount as last year. His office was one of about 50 district departments that experienced cuts of as much as 10%, saving the district about $30 million.
The board declined another request by Mullinax to fund seven new staffers in his office, a move that would have cost $230,000 through the end of the fiscal year. The board referred the matter to its audit and finance committee.
Mullinax said the restored money will allow his staff of 63 to address ongoing cases. But without the additional staff, he said, his office will be unable to get to a backlog of 43 audits and 45 investigations.
Board members said they believed Mullinax deserved restoration of funding because of the unusual and difficult nature of his work.
"We have a good track record with our inspector general," board member Victoria Castro said.
Also on Tuesday, the board hired a former high-ranking attorney with the Department of Defense--and a onetime campaign consultant to Supt. Roy Romer--to serve as the school district's new general counsel.
Harold J. Kwalwasser will earn $225,000 a year in his new district position.
Kwalwasser, 53, served the last two years as deputy general counsel for the Department of Defense. He also served as chief of staff for former state Sen. John Garamendi and as a president of the Los Angeles city Fire Commission.
he was a campaign consultant to Romer in 1994 when the former Colorado governor won his third term. He inherits a host of legal problems at the district, including lawsuits over the Belmont Learning Complex and the Proposition 227, which effectively ended bilingual education.