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Whistleblower Audits Turn Up Waste, Fraud, Abuses

INSIDE POLITICS

March 29, 2004|Patt Morrison | Times Staff Writer

No WMDs in Baghdad so far, but Sacramento has turned up WFAs -- waste, fraud and abuses! These WFAs won't fund the deficit, but audits under the state's whistleblower act have uncovered 13 transgressions in the last half of 2003.

Some highlights: In three months, a forestry employee on a state computer tapped into 3,000 porn sites; he was docked 5% of his pay for four months.... Officials at the state prison in Los Angeles County mismanaged $3,300 in movie and TV fees from filming at the prison, and also "laundered" $4,150 from media production companies by routing it through an inmate religious account before transferring it, allowing the media companies to claim the money as a tax deduction.

Other nuggets: A Department of Social Services worker who had lied about getting a college degree used state equipment and employees to run his personal business -- but quit before he could be disciplined.... A manager in a criminal justice planning office arranged a $641 contract for his/her spouse.... And two Caltrans supervisors pocketed the recycling money from cans and bottles gathered up along the highways. One had to give back the $865.80; the other had already spent it on a barbecue for his employees. See? Recycling pays!

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Padilla Gets Roasted by Diabetes Foundation

It really WAS all for charity after all.

When L.A. City Council President Alex Padilla was found making a video one weekend in Mayor Jim Hahn's private office without permission, he said it was for the American Diabetes Foundation -- and so it was.

The group roasted Padilla at the L.A. Convention Center, but Padilla managed to hold his own, and hold some official feet to the fire himself: "I asked my staff, 'How in the world am I going to look good when I'm standing near Bernard Parks?' -- a dandy dresser and City Council member. They said, 'Don't worry, Alex. Zev will be there.' "

And on the subject of Zev Yaroslavsky, the trim but occasionally rumpled L.A. County supervisor, Padilla said, "Zev, you're looking quite dapper in one of your newer suits this evening. Did you get that thing before or after I was born?"

And to City Council colleague Tony Cardenas, who is famously easily moved to tears by tales of woe, Padilla said, "I have to say tonight's a first for you. It's the first time I've seen you give an entire speech without crying."

He spun a tale of taking high school students on a tour of City Hall: "We go by the mayor's office, and sure enough, one of them asks me, 'Councilman, how many people work in the mayor's office?' I thought about it for a second and told the kid, 'About half of them, I guess.' " Not so funny a few days later -- after a jumped or was pushed political decapitation scenario took out several of Hahn's aides.

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Humane Society Lauds 2 GOP Congressmen

Animal rights -- they're not just for liberal tree-huggers any more.

At the 18th annual Genesis Awards dinner, sponsored by the Humane Society of the United States' Hollywood office, a pair of Republican congressmen got a huge ovation for their work on behalf of critters.

Tippi Hedren, the actress who now runs an animal sanctuary in Acton, applauded Elton Gallegly of Simi Valley and Buck McKeon of Santa Clarita for sponsoring and shepherding through Congress last year's Captive Wildlife Safety Act, which bans interstate and foreign commerce of big exotic cats as pets.

In years past, McKeon, who was Santa Clarita's first mayor before he went to Congress, has labored to preserve open space and natural corridors for wildlife -- although his collection of cowboy boots made of ostrich, crocodile, anteater and other skins might earn him demerits.

And Gallegly has championed bear legislation, from banning the trade in bear gallbladders -- an Asian belief in using the gallbladders medicinally resulted in the slaughter of thousands -- to enacting a ban on animal "crush videos" in which mice and other animals are trampled, usually by women in high heels. Mice 1, Manolos 0.

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Points Taken

* How rich is the George Bush presidential campaign? So rich that it's been sending out mass mailings of a color photo of Bush and his wife, Laura, with the message, "Thank you for your early commitment and dedication as a charter member of the campaign in California. Grass-roots leaders like you are the key to building a winning team. Best wishes, George Bush and Laura Bush." Nothing out of the ordinary -- except the photos have been sent to lifelong, yellow-dog Democrats. From their mailboxes, the photos may wind up, who knows, on dartboards. (Don't bother with outraged e-mail; Watergate felon-turned-shock-jock Gordon Liddy used drawings of Bill and Hillary Clinton for gun target practice.)

* A new website is selling "at cost" bumper stickers promoting San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom for president. His office had no comment for now. Maybe four years from now?

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