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D.A. Expanding Investigation of Belmont Project

January 10, 2001|From a Times Staff Writer

The district attorney's office is expanding a task force that is looking into possible crimes related to construction of the Belmont Learning Complex.

Investigators from the Los Angeles Police Department and the Los Angeles Unified School District's inspector general will join the probe of the unfinished high school near downtown, task force chief Anthony Patchett said.

The task force will explore issues raised by the schools' inspector general, Don Mullinax. He has alleged that former school district officials--and the high school's developer and environmental consulting firms--violated state law by allowing construction to begin without adequate environmental assessment.

During his administration, former Dist. Atty. Gil Garcetti declined to pursue charges stemming from the alleged environmental lapses. His prosecutors said they did not find any evidence of felonies.

The task force is reopening the environmental case and also examining Mullinax's allegations of overbilling by Belmont contractors.

In addition to Mullinax, the task force will include four prosecutors and investigators from the LAPD's environmental crimes unit, said Patchett, a retired prosecutor leading the task force for Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley.

The team also will include officials from the state Department of Toxic Substances Control and state Air Resources Board.

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