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Ex-Chief of EIDC Avoids Prison

September 21, 2004|Anna Gorman | Times Staff Writer

Cody Cluff was sentenced Monday to three years' probation on charges of embezzling public funds as head of the agency that promotes film production in Los Angeles.

Cluff, accused of spending public money on excursions to strip clubs and a baseball camp, served three months behind bars while he was evaluated by state prison officials. He also repaid $80,000 to the Entertainment Industry Development Corp. as part of a plea deal with prosecutors.

Cluff "systematically" violated the public trust to support a "lavish lifestyle," according to a report by county probation officials that recommended prison time.

"The defendant wielded his power cunningly, in a brazen and reckless fashion, with no regard for the consequences or the ultimate victim in this matter -- the taxpayers," the report said.

Cluff, 45, pleaded no contest in May to embezzling public funds. Prosecutors alleged that he spent the agency's money on a country club membership, donations to his children's school and a trip to the Dominican Republic. Defense attorneys said Cluff, who resigned from the entertainment industry agency, never personally profited from the expenditures.

The agency's problems prompted a yearlong investigation, grand jury hearings and numerous changes to improve oversight and management. During the grand jury proceedings, several Los Angeles City Council members and county supervisors acknowledged they did not monitor spending or attend meetings, though they sat on the agency's board of directors.

The agency has since instituted new accounting and expenditure controls and filled the board with industry and neighborhood representatives.

"There is nothing more to be said," Lisa Rawlins, chairwoman of the agency's board of directors, said Monday.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Jennifer Snyder said Monday that the case focused attention on the lack of oversight at the agency.

"The light of public scrutiny was brought to bear on a lot of practices of EIDC at the time," she said. "That drain on the public coffers is over."

Cluff's attorney, Mark Werksman, said his client wants to put the case behind him.

"He always felt like he was wrongly accused," Werksman said Monday, "but he does take responsibility for things in hindsight that he should not have done while the head of the Entertainment Industry Development Corp."

State prison officials recommended that Cluff get probation, in part because he took responsibility and expressed remorse, prosecutors said.

The county Probation Department reached a different conclusion, recommending prison time because of Cluff's "corruption and greed." Its report also said Cluff repaid only a portion of the funds he "plundered."

Prosecutors said they had agreed not to seek more prison time based on the state Department of Corrections report.

Snyder said she was satisfied with the outcome and sentence. "This was a case where justice was served," she said, "and lessons were learned."

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