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Villaraigosa starts vacation in South Africa a day after inauguration

The Los Angeles mayor will attend a summit sponsored by the Academy of Achievement, a source says. The group honored the mayor in 2006.

July 03, 2009|Phil Willon

A day after being sworn in for his second term as Los Angeles mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa jetted off to South Africa on Thursday for a nine-day vacation.

The mayor's office released a statement Thursday afternoon saying only that the mayor will be out of the state from July 2 to July 10.

A source familiar with the trip said the mayor will attend a summit in Cape Town and Johannesburg sponsored by the Academy of Achievement. The event will assemble graduate students from around the world to meet with "the greatest thinkers and achievers of the age," according to the group's website.

Villaraigosa was one of 25 recipients of the academy's Golden Plate award, recognizing people of "exceptional achievement," in 2006. Other recipients that year included House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Nobel Prize-winning physicist John L. Hall and singer Sheryl Crow. The mayor also attended the academy summit last year in Hawaii.

The lead patron of the academy is the Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation.

EduCap, a student loan charity founded by Catherine and Wayne Reynolds and affiliated with the academy, recently came under scrutiny by the Internal Revenue Service and Congress.

The inquiries stemmed from allegations that EduCap may have abused its tax-exempt status by giving lavish perks to executives and providing non-foundation-related trips on a corporate jet to prominent Washington political figures, including former Sen. Tom Daschle (D-S.D.).

As with other invited guests attending the event, Villaraigosa's travel expenses are being paid by the academy, city officials said.

However, the city is paying the travel expenses incurred by the Los Angeles Police Department security detail that accompanies the mayor when he travels. When Villaraigosa vacationed in Reykjavik, Iceland, and London for 10 days last summer, the officers' travel costs were $10,650, according to city expense reports.

The mayor's spokesman, Matt Szabo, declined to provide details on the security detail or say whether Lu Parker, a KTLA-TV Channel 5 reporter whom the mayor is dating, accompanied Villaraigosa on the trip. Parker could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Under normal circumstances, City Council President Eric Garcetti would serve as acting mayor in Villaraigosa's absence, but Garcetti is also traveling outside the country. So Council President Pro Tem Jan Perry will be the acting mayor until Garcetti's return Tuesday.

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phil.willon@latimes.com

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