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Hahn Urges Elected Officials Be Removed From Film Board

October 24, 2002|Patrick McGreevy and Beth Shuster | Times Staff Writers

Los Angeles Mayor James K. Hahn said Wednesday that he supports removing himself and all other elected officials from the board of the Entertainment Industry Development Corp., the film permitting agency under investigation by county prosecutors for possible misuse of public funds.

Hahn said he agrees with a recent recommendation by City Atty. Rocky Delgadillo, who argued that removing elected officials from the board would help clear up confusion about whether it is a private or public agency. All members of the City Council and the county Board of Supervisors automatically serve on the EIDC board.

The agency was set up in 1995 by the city and county as an experiment in privatizing public services, in this case the processing of permits for location filming, which previously had been handled by government.

Delgadillo said in an Oct. 10 report that the intent was for the EIDC to be a private, nonprofit agency that would contract with the city and county and pass through permit and film service revenue to the government agencies. But one of the issues being investigated by the district attorney's office is whether the money handled by the agency constitutes public funds, in which case it could not be used for political contributions.

Nearly 20 members of the council and the county board who have served on the EIDC board have received campaign contributions from the agency over the years. "The recommendation of the city attorney was a good one," said Hahn, who as mayor is a member of the EIDC board. "None of the elected officials had any impact or influence on those contributions, but I think ... it does not look right."

Hahn, who received campaign contributions from the agency during his mayoral campaign, made his comments Wednesday on his regular radio call-in show on KFWB-AM (980) just a day after the Los Angeles City Council allocated $150,000 to audit the agency.

In addition to questions raised by prosecutors over the agency's campaign contributions and the expense-account spending of the agency's president, the city is concerned that it may not have been fully reimbursed by the agency in a timely fashion for city services used during location filming.

The mayor Wednesday challenged the practice of having elected officials automatically serve on the EIDC board with film industry representatives.

"I think we need to have an appointed board," Hahn said. "That makes the EIDC much more effective."

The mayor did not elaborate on how such a change would improve public oversight of the embattled agency. A spokeswoman for Hahn said later that because many of the elected officials on the board do not attend the board's meetings, there would be better oversight with a smaller appointed panel. The mayor and council members could still monitor the agency to make sure it complied with its city contract, said Julie Wong, a spokeswoman for Hahn.

Rather than resign immediately from the board, Wong said, the mayor will wait for a comprehensive package of changes being developed by a consultant for the agency. Hahn recently returned $25,000 in contributions that the agency made to the mayor's anti-secession campaign, saying it was a distraction from the issues involving the proposed city breakup.

Taking aim at another troubled agency, Hahn said Wednesday that he wants reforms at the Los Angeles Convention & Visitors Bureau, which a city audit faulted last week for lavish spending and poor performance.

In his strongest statements yet on the nonprofit city contractor's problems, Hahn said that its management needs to be revamped and that officials need to be more aggressive about bringing business to Los Angeles.

Hahn said George Kirkland, the convention bureau president who has been the target of much criticism, needs to show that he can better manage the agency.

"No one should have a lock on any job. They've got to perform," Hahn said.

"I think Mr. Kirkland certainly has gotten a lot of criticism. The board has asked him to make some changes; we'll see if he can do that and revitalize the bureau," Hahn said on the radio program "Ask the Mayor."

Hahn strongly suggested that the convention bureau must bring more shows to the city.

"When Des Moines, Iowa, gets more conventions than Los Angeles, I think we have to look at that," Hahn said. "I think [the bureau's] performance has been underwhelming at best."

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