Politics

South El Monte officials engaged in reckless spending, controller says

File photo: The San Gabriel Mountains behind the city of El Monte on July 30, 2014.
File photo: The San Gabriel Mountains behind the city of El Monte on July 30, 2014.
Frederic J. Brown/Getty Images

A review of the city of South El Monte’s finances, released on Thursday by State Controller Betty Yee’s office, found what Yee calls a “culture of incompetence.”

City council members used city-issued credit cards to buy laptops, phones, tablets and televisions. The expenses totaled nearly $290,000, Yee told KPCC.

"We didn’t see any of this equipment entered into the city's inventory, so that would suggest to us that they were purchased for personal use,” Yee said. “And then we saw the former city manager charging over $3,000 to a cheerleading camp with no supporting documentation." 

Yee said city officials also repeatedly granted contracts without competitive bidding, some of which amounted to a few million dollars over the course of several years. The audit is being shared with legal authorities and South El Monte city officials, Yee said.

Last year, the L.A. County Board of Supervisors asked for the review after the mayor of South El Monte was convicted of bribery charges. 

In August 2016, Yee announced that her office would review the city’s finances between 2013 and 2015. The city, home to more than 20,000 people, is located in the San Gabriel Valley region of L.A. County.