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City Hall Prank Results in Inquiry

February 26, 2004|Jessica Garrison | Times Staff Writer

Los Angeles Mayor James K. Hahn said he felt "a little violated." Council President Alex Padilla said he was very sorry, but meant no harm.

Meanwhile, the city has launched an investigation into why security guards allowed Padilla -- and a video camera -- into the mayor's personal office without permission last weekend.

Welcome to Videogate, the newest scandal to rock Los Angeles City Hall.

As first reported Wednesday in the Daily Breeze, the incident began as a well-intentioned prank on a rainy afternoon last Saturday.

Padilla said that he and Mitchell Englander, a top aide to Councilman Greig Smith, had gone to the mayor's office to capture some footage for a spoof video. The video will be shown at a fundraiser for the American Diabetes Assn., at which Padilla will be a featured guest. (To preserve the joke, Englander declined to explain for the record exactly why he and Padilla needed to be in the mayor's office.)

Trouble was, Hahn's office is locked on weekends. So Padilla and Englander persuaded security officials to let them in through not one but two sets of locked doors.

As they were on their way out, someone from the mayor's budget team spotted them. (The budget team was working away that day, grappling with the city's $250-million projected shortfall for next year.)

The budget team called Chief of Staff Tim McOsker, who was so concerned about the security breach that he drove in from San Pedro.

Now, the city's General Services Department has placed one security official on administrative leave while it investigates.

"It was a mistake," Padilla said, adding that he had thought someone in the mayor's office knew he was coming in, and that the mayor was justified in being upset. He added that one "silver lining" to the debacle might be the discovery that there are "loopholes in our security."

Hahn, for his part, said the issue had raised some concerns among his security detail.

"I think my personal office ought to be my personal office," he said. "You do feel a little violated."

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