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Villaraigosa's top appointee at city's housing authority board resigns

Beatriz Stotzer's action comes just days after she was identified as a subject of an inquiry by the L.A. County district attorney and a review by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development.

May 28, 2011|By David Zahniser, Los Angeles Times

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's top appointee at the city's housing authority board resigned Friday, just days after she was identified as a subject of an inquiry by Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley and a review by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development.

In a one-page letter to Villaraigosa, Beatriz Stotzer said she planned to resign as board president and made no mention of the ongoing inquiries. Instead, she said she had laid the foundation for a "bright future" at the housing agency.

"Over the past several months … it has become clear to me that my ability to further the important work that lies ahead can be best accomplished outside" of the agency, she wrote.

Prosecutors are looking at conflict-of-interest allegations centering on Stotzer's private sector work with affordable housing developers and her public leadership role at the housing authority, where she had spent nearly six years as a mayoral appointee. With a $1-billion budget, the agency administers federal rent subsidies known as Section 8 vouchers and is responsible for 60,000 of the city's neediest families.

Stotzer, who lives in Sherman Oaks, is also the unpaid board president of New Economics For Women, an affordable housing developer. And she makes at least $100,000 annually as chief executive of New Capital LLC, which manages apartments for New Economics and other nonprofit groups.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Max Huntsman said last week that his office was specifically examining New Capital's work for West Valley Hart, a project that has at least three Section 8 units and was developed by the nonprofit West Valley Community Development Corp. That group also lists Stotzer as its board president.

Stotzer's lawyer said last week that his client followed conflict-of-interest laws and recused herself when necessary.

Questions also have been raised in recent weeks about Stotzer's two children, both of whom live in subsidized apartment units developed by her New Economics group. Nicolas Stotzer, 30, moved into Tierra del Sol in Canoga Park in July 2005, paying $557 per month for a one-bedroom upon his arrival, according to Roberto Lara, a lawyer for New Capital.

Antonio Stotzer, 26, moved into the same building a year later — at the age of 21— paying $362 per month for a one-bedroom.

Villaraigosa responded by thanking Stotzer for her service and said through a spokeswoman that he did not force Stotzer to resign. Like Stotzer, he made no mention of the state and federal inquiries. But City Councilman Dennis Zine said he was troubled that Stotzer's sons were living in the Tierra del Sol project, which is in his west San Fernando Valley district.

Hours before Stotzer's announcement, Zine said it was time for her to resign. "Not to discriminate against single people, but that place was supposed to be for low-income families," he said. "Low-income families are not single people."

Antonio Stotzer lives by himself at Tierra del Sol. Lara, the lawyer for New Capital, said both sons submitted tenant applications without the knowledge of their mother, whose company was responsible for screening their eligibility for subsidized units.

Nicolas Stotzer moved in three weeks after he submitted his application, while Antonio Stotzer waited roughly a year, Lara said.

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