Politics, government and public life for Southern California

New audit from Wendy Greuel focuses on mileage reimbursement

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L.A. City Controller Wendy Greuel summoned reporters to her third floor office Tuesday for her latest indictment of how Los Angeles operates.

“There is troubling evidence that the city regularly overpays mileage reimbursements by hundreds of thousands of dollars,” Greuel said.  “This is just the tip of the iceberg.”

The controller’s number crunchers looked at a sampling of three years of mileage reimbursements by city workers who use their own cars. It found more than $325,000 “was wasted due to overpayments and lack of oversight.”

But that's not a big number in a city with a $7 billion dollar budget.  And it's unclear how much was fraud.

The city paid one Bureau of Street Services worker $30,252.  Auditors found only $2,156 worth of mileage receipts.  It’s unclear whether the paperwork was never filed, lost or the worker defrauded the city.

“The message we’re sending is [that] details manner,” Greuel said. She added her office seeks to conduct “quick and yet responsive audits that give us the kind of information that can change overall management.”

Her audits also often provide good news coverage for Greuel, who aspires to be L.A.’s next mayor.  Political consultants call it “earned media,” and it’s the best kind.

Greuel said her audits have nothing to do with her campaign for the March 5 primary against City Council members Eric Garcetti, Jan Perry, former conservative talk show host Kevin James, and a host of lesser known candidates.

“I release audits on a monthly basis. This is an audit we have been working on for a long time,” she said.  “I will continue to issue audits as the City Controller.” 

It should be noted Greuel has won praise for some of her audits, including one that looked at cell phone useage by city employees.

One more note: Greuel invited just one other elected official to the news conference.  Councilman Dennis Zine is chair of the Audits and Governmental Efficiency Committee. He is also Greuel’s favored candidate to succeed her in next year’s election.

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