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L.A. official steered work to relatives

Nearly $800,000 in city contracts, often with inflated prices, went to family and firms with political ties, data show.

July 28, 2007|Ted Rohrlich and Jessica Garrison | Times Staff Writers

But records show Valdivia did -- by underbidding Levert.

"Is that unethical?" Levert asked, when shown the paperwork.

Valdivia acknowledged that Levert was a client on an unrelated project in Whittier but denied submitting bids to the housing authority on Levert's behalf.

In one case, documents and interviews show, a company that bid repeatedly does not seem to have existed.

Files show that someone named "John Vargas" of "Vargas Designs" submitted bids and gave a Highland Park address. There is a drafting firm at that address, but the father and son who run it say they have never heard of John Vargas.

A review of public records also turned up no Vargas at that address.



The $2,500 toilet*

A comparison of expenses paid by the city and county housing agencies.

* Price per toilet paid by the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles: $2,445.

* Price per toilet paid by the Los Angeles County Housing Authority: $620.

* Price per grab bar paid by the city: $2,000 to $2,500.

* Price per grab bar paid by the county: $250.

*Prices cover removal of an old toilet and installation of a new one that meets Americans With Disabilities Act standards in apartments in public housing projects. The city had a $2,500 ceiling for no-bid contracts that could be awarded by managers at their sole discretion.

Source: Los Angeles city and county housing authorities



An unreal bid


Housing authority files show this bid for about $100,000 in construction design work at three housing projects was submitted in the name of civil engineer George Sihvonen. But Sihvonen said he never made the bid.


Other bidders for this contract listed in city housing authority records included:

Republic Services Group, whose owner said he did not submit the bid.

Estelle Campbell, who also said she did not submit the bid.

KV and Co., whose bid was submitted in the name of a nonexistent executive.

Vargas Designs, a company that apparently does not exist.

West Coast United, whose owner said he submitted a bid through his political consultant, Gustavo Valdivia, an assertion Valdivia denied.

Valdivia's firm, Grande Vista Associates, which won the bid.

Estrada Courts Resident Management Corp., from whom Valdivia sublets

office space.


Sources: Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles, Times reporting

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