Monday, April 22, 2002
Hahn’s Budget Slashes Travel, Furniture for City Attorney, Other Offices
By KIMBERLY EDDS, Staff Writer
City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo will have to make do next year without money to pay for furniture, office and technical equipment or travel, as will a number of other city departments, under Mayor James Hahn’s proposed 2002-2003 budget unveiled Friday.
“There’s not going to be a lot of traveling by departments to conferences next year,” Hahn said. “They’re going to have to have someone else go and take notes for them.”
Delgadillo had requested $55,000 for travel expenses over the next year and for more than half a million dollars for office equipment, requests which Hahn, who spent 12 years as city attorney, denied. Hahn said the current economic crunch the city is in precludes those type of expenditures by city departments.
The City Attorney’s Office was budgeted $492,655 for office equipment in the current fiscal year, which ends June 30.
“The mayor’s priorities were to provide services for police and fire, tree trimming and street paving,” Hahn spokeswoman Hilda Delgado said. “This means other city offices needed to tighten their belts.”
Delgado said Delgadillo’s office was not singled out in the cuts, noting the travel budget for the entire 15-member City Council was just $42,246. While the City Administrative Officer, the City Controller, the City Clerk, and Information Technology Agency were forced to do without travel budgets, Hahn’s travel budget remained the same as last year at $20,316.
Hahn’s $4.81 billion budget—$40 million less than last year’s—emphasizes public safety, granting a $34 million boost to the Police Department and a $19 million increase to the Fire Department. The budget erases the projected $250 million shortfall and maintains just the bare minimum reserve fund as required by the City Charter.
“We faced unprecedented challenges in the wake of the declining economy and the impacts of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks,” Hahn said.
Under the mayor’s plan, the City Attorney’s Office’s total budget goes up $4.1 million to $80.7 million, but falls short of the $86.5 million Delgadillo asked for.
Delgadillo’s Neighborhood Prosecutors program, hailed by Hahn last Monday as proof city government is becoming more available to residents, is funded at $3.6 million in Hahn’s proposal instead of the $4.4 million the city attorney had lobbied for.
The program, started as a pilot project in March, puts a deputy city attorney in each of the LAPD’s 18 divisions to work with police officers and community members to identify “small” crimes. The neighborhood prosecutors join forces with the Citywide Nuisance Abatement Program to rid Los Angeles neighborhoods of “quality of life” crimes.
Ana Garcia, spokeswoman for Delgadillo, said last week the program is “not fully funded.” Garcia compared Hahn’s previously disclosed $3.6 million recommendation to paying a police officer’s salary, but not for his car, his radio or his gun.
Despite knocking travel and office equipment out of the city attorney’s budget, Hahn included a $6.2 million increase for salaries.
The budget also includes funds to help the Police Department respond to a growing number of motions for discovery of police officer personnel records. An attorney for a criminal defendant, or a civil litigant, may file what is commonly known as a Pitchess motion in order to obtain evidence of past conduct by the officer that may be relevant to the new case.
A judge then must decide, after an inspection of the files, what records should be turned over.
The number of Pitchess motions to which the city had to respond has increased from 2,167 in 2000 to 2,270 last year.
The LAPD, operating on a budget of $927.7 million for next year, will have the money to hire 360 new officers over the next year and the possibility to hire even more if federal funding is sought to pay their salaries. Hahn also arranged for 100 officers to be transferred from administrative duties to patrol, putting more officers on the street to fight crime.
“Making this a safer city is my top priority,” Hahn said.
Those increases were made possible by penny-pinching and quick action taking by the city following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks that included a citywide hiring freeze, Hahn said. The hiring freeze, which allowed the city to roll over $71 million from the current year, will remain in place for the foreseeable future.
The department will also get a more than $42 million increase in salaries for sworn officers, but Hahn’s budget does not include funds to pay for a department-requested additional 400,000 of overtime for those officers above the 1.2 million hours allowed in the current budget.
The additional hours would cost the city $18 million bringing the total cost of overtime for the department to $64 million a year. Hahn increased the overtime hours by just two million dollars.
Police Administrator William Moran of the LAPD’s Fiscal and Support Bureau said while he was disappointed the department didn’t get more money for overtime, given the current shortage of nearly 1,000 officers he understood the LAPD has to tighten its belt along with other city departments.
“With the city’s financial plight, it doesn’t come as a great surprise to us,” Moran said.
But the cuts, if they pass muster with the City Council, could prove devastating to some of the departments programs, he said. The cuts could force the department’s ombuds program, which helps to prevent workplace conflicts from escalating into personnel complaints, grievances, or lawsuits, to be disbanded and the ranks of the community affairs and DARE programs to suffer serious setbacks, Moran said.
The department’s Governmental Liaison Office would also most likely be eliminated completely. The office acts as a liaison between the department and city officials, allowing city officials to have a direct contact person in seeking information on the LAPD, Sgt. Sylvia Vielma said. Also under the office is the judicial liaison which provides the same function for members of the judiciary, the City Attorney’s Office and the District Attorney’s Office. The legislative liaison “acts as the department’s ears” in Sacramento, notifying the LAPD of upcoming legislation that could impact the department, Vielma said.
The elimination of the office would be devastating, Vielma said.
“There’s no way the department would know about legislation being introduced that would have an impact on the department,” Vielma said. “We wouldn’t know anything about it until it was enacted into law.”
Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company