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Delgadillo used his staff for baby-sitting, errands

A spokesman for the city attorney says work and favors were done on personal time.

June 21, 2007|Matt Lait | Times Staff Writer

Los Angeles City Atty. Rocky Delgadillo has enlisted members of his office staff to run personal errands and baby-sit his two young children, including taking them to museums and other local attractions.

In response to inquiries from The Times, Delgadillo confirmed through a spokesman Wednesday that he relied on his staff to attend to some family and personal needs, but he declined to give many details.

"On occasion, city staff members -- some of whom the city attorney has known for many years -- have watched the Delgadillos' children on their own personal time," according to a statement released by Delgadillo's office. "They were personally paid by the Delgadillos, but sometimes declined payment.

"On rare occasions, city staff have run errands for the city attorney on their lunch breaks or other personal time," the statement read.

Sources with firsthand knowledge of the arrangement, however, said staffers often attended to the city attorney's personal needs and children during normal business hours.

Nick Velasquez, a spokesman for Delgadillo, said the favors sometimes coincided with business hours, but the employees used personal time.

He said the baby-sitting generally occurred at Delgadillo's home, but that on occasion his children -- two boys ages 6 and 3 -- were brought to the office, as other employees have done in the past. He declined to identify which employees baby-sat for the family.

Delgadillo's admission follows disclosures that he periodically allowed his wife Michelle to drive his city-owned GMC Yukon -- a possible violation of city rules.

Michelle Delgadillo, 36, had a suspended driver's license when she drove the city vehicle. In 2004, she damaged the SUV by backing into a pole in a parking lot near her doctor's office. The city attorney had the Yukon repaired at city expense.

On Monday, after some government accountability advocates accused Delgadillo of misusing public funds, he said at a news conference that he had decided to reimburse the city $1,222 for the job.

"It's the right thing to do," he said.

Michelle Delgadillo also had a previous run-in with the law for driving without a valid driver's license, car registration or insurance in 1998. The Times revealed this week that she had an outstanding arrest warrant in connection with that case. On Wednesday, she went to court and pleaded no contest to driving without a valid driver's license, was sentenced to one year of unsupervised probation and fined $431.

Delgadillo -- city attorney since 2001 and a former deputy mayor in the Richard Riordan administration -- declined to be directly interviewed about the allegations that he had used city staff for personal reasons.

Section 49.5.5 of the city's Municipal Code, titled "Misuse of City Position or Resources," states that "no city official ... shall use his or her position or prospective position, or the power of authority of his or her office or position, in any manner intended to induce or coerce any person to provide, directly or indirectly, anything of value which shall accrue to the private advantage, benefit, or economic gain, of the city official or employee, or of any other person."

The code clarifies that it applies to advantages, benefits or gains that are "distinct from that enjoyed by members of the public without regard to official status or not resulting naturally from lawful and proper performance of duties."

The rule has been in effect since Delgadillo took office in 2001 and is included in the 17-page Ethics Handbook for City Officials that elected officials are provided upon taking office.

The Times interviewed seven former or current city employees who said they saw the city attorney use staff for personal reasons.

The sources, however, spoke only on the condition that they not be identified for fear of reprisal.

One former employee said Delgadillo and his wife would call upon secretaries and other support staff to watch his children at City Hall.

"They would sit in an office and read to them or watch them watch TV," the ex-employee said.

Two sources said a male employee, Robbie Britton, had been called upon to do handyman chores at the Delgadillos' house such as put together a trampoline or move weights. Britton also has picked up Delgadillo's dry-cleaning, the sources said. Britton could not be reached for comment.

In response to those allegations, Velasquez said the weights were a birthday gift from the city attorney's staff and "Mr. Britton delivered this staff gift to his house. Any other errands performed by Mr. Britton were on his personal time."

Los Angeles City Ethics Commissioner Bill Boyarsky, a former Times city editor, said that even if employees did such work on their own time it was wrong of Delgadillo to use them.

He said employees might feel coerced into volunteering out of fear that the boss might retaliate.

"When you're a public official you should not use your cars, your staff or any public resources for personal reasons," he said. "It's really outrageous. Even in private life that's not right."

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matt.lait@latimes.com

Times staff writers Steve Hymon and Patrick McGreevy contributed to this report.

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