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L.A. Now Live: Secret report on former Vernon administrator opened

August 30, 2013
  • Bruce V. Malkenhorst is shown in 2002, when he was still Vernon city administrator.
Bruce V. Malkenhorst is shown in 2002, when he was still Vernon city administrator. (Los Angeles Times )

The city of Vernon is giving Los Angeles County prosecutors a chance to examine a years-old report on the city’s former city manager, Bruce V. Malkenhorst, who was convicted of corruption.

Join us at 9 a.m when we talk with Times reporter Hector Becerra about the report and what it reveals about Malkenhorst.

Nearly a decade ago, Vernon's city attorney launched a secret internal investigation into Malkenhorst, the small city's powerful administrator.

The 85-page report alleged that Malkenhorst used hundreds of thousands of dollars in public funds for expenses, including massages and Christmas gifts for family and friends.

Within weeks of the city attorney's presenting the results of his investigation to the City Council, Malkenhurst was fired. The city also began a long legal battle to keep the report private, even refusing to give it to Los Angeles County prosecutors during a corruption investigation into Malkenhorst.

Now, Vernon and Malkenhorst find themselves as adversaries, and the city is dusting off the report.

Malkenhorst, 78, left the city in 2005 after prosecutors charged him with corruption. He was later convicted, but he walked away with California's largest pension: more than $500,000 a year. The state found that Malkenhorst obtained the pension improperly and slashed it. That prompted Malkenhorst to sue the city this summer, demanding that it make up the difference.

Since the suit was filed, Vernon officials have taken a new look at the secret report and begun a larger forensic accounting of Malkenhorst's compensation over the years.

The new openness has intrigued prosecutors. They complained bitterly that Vernon withheld key information during the district attorney's investigation into Malkenhorst, who at the height of his power rode in a limousine and regularly played 18 holes of golf on the city's dime.

Max Huntsman, a member of the district attorney's public corruption unit, said his staff was not allowed to call the author of the report, former City Atty. Eduardo Olivo, to testify because a judge ruled that Olivo was bound by attorney-client privilege. 

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