Parks seeks ouster of L.A. Coliseum's top two officials

Parks seeks ouster of L.A. Coliseum's top two officials
Los Angeles city councilman Bernard Parks at a meeting of the Coliseum Commission in February 2011, looking at a photo of the Electric Daisy Carnival rave the previous summer. (Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)

City Councilman Bernard C. Parks called Saturday for the dismissal of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum's top two officials because of a growing financial scandal over the private business dealings of stadium managers.

Parks, a member of the Coliseum's governing commission, said in an interview that the panel should "make a clean sweep" of the leadership ranks at the publicly owned sports and entertainment complex.

He spoke out after a report in Saturday's Times that, citing records and interviews, said the Coliseum's technology manager directed stadium business to a firm he founded.

In an email to other commissioners, Parks, whose district includes the Coliseum, said the panel should fire interim General Manager John Sandbrook and Finance Director Ronald Lederkramer as well as the technology manager, Leopold Caudillo Jr.

Another Coliseum employee, David Shea, named in state records as an agent of the private firm, should also be ousted, Parks said.

"We as a commission need to make this our … #1 priority," he wrote in the email.

Commission President David Israel said the panel would discuss the matter in closed session Wednesday but should wait to take any action until an internal inquiry is carried out.

Sandbrook did not respond to an email seeking comment Saturday. Telephone messages left for Lederkramer and Caudillo were not returned. Shea declined to be interviewed.

Caudillo said in an earlier interview that he no longer owned the company, HH Tech, and that Shea was the current owner. Asked in a subsequent interview if he was the owner, Shea did not respond. The most recent records available from the state list Caudillo as the company's only manager.

The commission has paid HH Tech about $30,000 since 2007, most of it since last summer, according to billing records obtained through the California Public Records Act. Caudillo was named as the purchaser on 13 of 14 Coliseum orders for HH Tech's services.

State law generally prohibits government employees from making, participating in or otherwise influencing decisions by their agency in which they have a financial interest.

Lederkramer authorized most of the payments to HH Tech, the records show. A commission attorney has said Lederkramer told him he did not know that Caudillo and Shea had any connection to HH Tech.

In his email, Parks referred to other Times reports on questionable Coliseum spending, including payments to Lederkramer to cover most of the costs of a leased Jaguar as well as his personal auto insurance.

"None of these oversights or the growing list of allegations are being corrected, and we are bleeding to death from a thousand cuts," Parks wrote.

Sandbrook replaced former General Manager Patrick Lynch, who resigned shortly after The Times reported in February that he had approved a business arrangement between his events manager and a production company that staged rave concerts at the Coliseum and companion Sports Arena.

Records and interviews showed that two firms run by the events manager, Todd DeStefano, collected more than $1.8 million from the concert firm and several other companies that did business with the commission while he was on the Coliseum payroll.

DeStefano, who has denied doing anything wrong, is under investigation by the Los Angeles County district attorney's office and the state Fair Political Practices Commission. As part of the D.A.'s probe, investigators have served search warrants at the homes of Lynch and DeStefano.

Lynch's attorney has said his client has done nothing improper.

The nine-member commission is a joint authority of the state and the city and county of Los Angeles. Six other members -- one seat is vacant -- did not respond to emailed requests for interviews Saturday, including county Supervisors Zev Yaroslavsky, Don Knabe and Mark Ridley-Thomas.

The scandal comes as the commission finds itself unable to pay for Coliseum upgrades it promised the stadium's main tenant, USC football, under the terms of a lease. At Wednesday's meeting, the panel is scheduled to take up a proposal to begin negotiating a new, broader lease with USC that could give the school effective control of the Coliseum.

Parks opposes such a master lease because he says it would grant USC, a private institution, veto power over the public's use of the Coliseum. Israel said Parks' push for the swift firings was "grandstanding," at least partly motivated by his frustration over the USC issue. Parks denied that.