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Chick won't employ advisor

The L.A. controller drops plans to hire a City Hall consultant with ties to lobbyists because of the potential for a conflict of interest.

August 07, 2007|David Zahniser | Times Staff Writer

Under fire for hiring a City Hall contractor with ties to lobbyists, Los Angeles City Controller Laura Chick said Monday that she has abandoned plans for employing Marcus Allen, a onetime aide to Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, as a consultant.

Chick said she would not proceed with the $85,000-a-year contract with Allen, who is a consultant to City Hall lobbyists Arnie Berghoff and Harvey Englander.

Last week, Councilman Dennis Zine questioned whether Allen would face a conflict of interest in his two jobs by working both for the city's auditor and for firms that might take on targets of audits as their clients. Chick responded by saying Allen would establish a firewall between himself and his other bosses, who list Allen as a partner in their joint venture, Berghoff Englander Associates.

On Monday, Chick said she and Allen had changed course.

"In our enthusiasm to put his expert abilities to work again for the city of Los Angeles, we lost sight of how this contract would be perceived," she said in a statement.

Allen said he withdrew the contract because of questions about the "potential for a conflict of interest, as remote as it certainly is."

"We really sat and thought about it, about the perception and how it could be used," said Allen, a Carlsbad resident who spent two years as Villaraigosa's No. 2 policy advisor.

"I've worked for City Hall off and on for 15 years, and I don't want people to think I'm doing something wrong. I don't want people thinking the controller is doing anything wrong. It's not worth it."

Allen, who worked for Chick from 2001 to 2005, would have earned $250 an hour as a consultant in the controller's office. If he had worked the $85,000 contract maximum, that would have amounted to eight and a half weeks' worth of billable hours.

The contract stated that Allen's duties would have included work regarding Chick's audits, as well as a review of cover letters, press releases and other documents.

david.zahniser@latimes.com

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