Los Angeles City Controller Wendy Greuel said today she will conduct the city's first-ever top-to-bottom audit of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum amid allegations of conflict of interest and poor oversight.
Greuel said she decided to initiate the audit after she had received a request from an "office manager'' - rather than the department's general manager or the commission - to boost pay for 20 of the department's 32 employees, including a $25,000 raise for the Coliseum's embattled finance director.
The stadium, the site of two Olympic Games and the home of USC football, is jointly operated by the state, Los Angeles County and the City of Los Angeles.
"This request raises many red flags,'' Greuel said. "Given the allegations of conflicts of interest, I believe it's critically important to look at the books of the Coliseum Commission ... to determine if they're spending their money wisely and effectively, and most importantly if they're transparent in what they're doing.''
The head of the Coliseum's governing commission told the Los Angeles Times that he rescinded a $25,000 pay increase for finance director Ronald Lederkramer after Greuel raised questions last week. Lederkramer was the official who oversaw the stadium's finances throughout a scandal involving allegations of conflict of interest, excessive perks and poor fiscal oversight.
Commission President David Israel said he and other panel members did not know of Lederkramer's raise or smaller ones given to other Coliseum employees, which were also canceled.
The Times reported earlier this year that two firms set up by the Coliseum's then-events manager, Todd DeStefano, collected at least $1.8 million from companies doing business at the stadium and companion Sports Arena, which have been operating in the red.
At the same time, the Coliseum's former general manager, Patrick Lynch, transferred to himself ownership of a Cadillac bought by the commission, records and interviews show, according to The Times.
Lederkramer billed the Coliseum for most of the costs of his personally leased Jaguar, in addition to the full premium for his auto insurance, according to documents obtained by the newspaper under the California Public Records Act.
Greuel said that car allowances paid to Lederkramer and other Coliseum employees will be part of her investigation.
"We believe there has to be a top-to-bottom financial audit of the Coliseum's books," she said.
Lederkramer made about $195,000 last fiscal year. The now-rescinded 17 percent raise would have lifted his base salary from about $145,000 to $170,000, according to records released to The Times by Greuel's office.
The commission's interim general manager, John Sandbrook, approved raises for 20 other Coliseum employees, although most were increases of 5 percent or less, the records show. Israel said all the raises have been shelved, pending a review of salaries by an outside consultant.
A spokesman for state Controller John Chiang said he had no immediate plans to join the audit of the Coliseum.
"Our first question would be whether or not there would be authority for the state to step in,'' spokesman Jacob Roper said. "Normally that is an authority that would rest with the local controller, even in joint power authorities.''