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Lobbyists' advisor hired by controller

August 02, 2007|David Zahniser | Times Staff Writer

Los Angeles City Controller Laura Chick said Wednesday she has hired a former aide to Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa as a $250-per-hour management consultant to advise her on policies, audits and news releases.

Carlsbad resident Marcus Allen, who spent two years as Villaraigosa's No. 2 policy advisor, will receive up to $85,000 per year as a consultant on such issues as the effectiveness of the city's anti-gang programs.

City Councilman Dennis Zine, chairman of the council committee that oversees personnel issues, questioned whether the job will pose a conflict, because Allen is also a consultant to City Hall lobbyists Harvey Englander and Arnie Berghoff.

Zine pointed out that frequent targets of Chick's audits are city contractors who retain lobbyists to defend themselves against her findings. "How do you serve two masters?" he asked. "How do you serve under contract [to the controller] at the same time you're serving a lobbyist?"

Chick said she vetted such questions with Allen, whose contract requires him to divulge if he has a potential conflict of interest. Englander "won't know anything about what Marcus is doing with me," Chick said. "This is a man who understands firewalls."

The controller also promised to sever Allen's contract if she learns that Englander or Berghoff has retained the subject of an ongoing audit as a client. "If there's any perception of a conflict," Allen's contract "is over. End of story," she said.

Allen, 46, left the mayor's office in June. He said he will work as many as 340 hours for Chick, who employed him as her chief deputy from 2001 to 2005.

Allen is not the first official at City Hall to transition from full-time employee to paid consultant. Since 2001, City Atty. Rocky Delgadillo has retained as his chief advisor Ann D'Amato, a retired city employee who receives $175,000 annually.

Last year, Lydia Kennard left her job as head of Los Angeles World Airports and quickly secured a three-year contract with the agency as an aviation consultant earning up to $200,000 per year. Kennard severed that contract Tuesday, leaving to become a board member for URS Corp., an airport contractor.

Still, not every consulting contract has been approved. In 2004, Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Larry Keller resigned his post and soon secured a three-year, $450,000 consulting contract from the harbor commission. The City Council blocked that arrangement.

Allen's contract doesn't require council approval.

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david.zahniser@latimes.com

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