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Sweep out the Coliseum Commission

The nine commissioners' lax oversight and lack of accountability have turned a public asset into a money trough for the hired managers.

September 07, 2011

Move over, Community College District. Sit down, county Probation Department. In a region rife with embarrassing governmental mismanagement, the chief embarrassment has become the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum Commission, the mishmash of appointees charged with running the historic Coliseum and the relic Sports Arena. As the nine commissioners squabble and backbite, their lax oversight and lack of accountability have turned a public asset into a money trough for its hired managers.

The death of a 15-year-old girl at a 2010 Coliseum rave was tragic, but what Times reporters turned up in the wake of the deadly dance party is outrageous. The same high-level Coliseum employee in charge of ensuring that there was adequate security and emergency services for the rave was simultaneously being paid by the promoter. And not just that one promoter, either: It turns out that Coliseum events manager Todd DeStefano's businesses collected hundreds of thousands of dollars from concert and party promoters and suppliers that did business with the commission.

His superior, Coliseum General Manager Patrick Lynch, signed off on the arrangement. Meanwhile, Lynch transferred ownership of a Coliseum-owned Cadillac to himself, without payment, and began using another of the stadium's cars for day-to-day use.

But that's old news. DeStefano and Lynch are gone, and are the subjects of criminal and administrative probes. But the Coliseum way of doing business apparently remains intact. The Times reported Saturday that the technology manager, Leopold Caudillo Jr., directed Coliseum business to a firm he founded. The Times also reported that the commission made the car payments and bought the insurance for Finance Director Ronald Lederkramer's Jaguar. As the Coliseum sank further into the red and the commission notified prime tenant USC that it couldn't make good on a deal to revamp the stadium, Lederkramer got a $25,000 raise.

Overseeing this operation is a commission of three county supervisors, a city councilman, two city parks officials and three state appointees, representing the often-competing goals of three different government entities. Whoever is president at the time exercises some oversight between commission meetings — until his yearlong term is up and a new member rotates into the top spot.

Late last week, City Councilman and commission member Bernard C. Parks called for another round of ousters of Coliseum management — and it's not that he's wrong. But the real sweep ought to be of the commission, which should be restructured into a smaller board of people who will not look the other way as the public, and its historic landmark, are being fleeced.

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