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Westside stories, Hollywood crime case, and 'afterslips'

Leave policy for injured city workers, the politics behind a fitness regime and one of Hollywood's longest-running sex scandals.

Welcome to another edition of Essential California, The Times' weekly newsletter. I'm California Editor Shelby Grad.

City Workers Taking Advantage?

One benchmark of a good boss is how he or she treats employees who are ill. But can too much generosity lead to abuse?

Over the last few months, reporter Jack Dolan has been probing that question in a series of investigative stories about Los Angeles' leave policy for injured city workers. His latest piece this week showed that the cost to taxpayers of leaves by civilian employees increased 50% in the five years that ended in January -- rising to $18 million. Have these jobs become more dangerous? Probably not. The leave policy is so generous, some workers were able to increase their take-home pay during their extended time off.

It gets really interesting when you compare L.A. City (which pays nearly 90% of salary to those on leave) to L.A. County (which pays 70%):

County civilian workers took injury leaves at about one-third the rate of their City Hall counterparts in 2013, a Times analysis of payroll records found. And the county outlay of $8.6 million in injury leave salaries last year was less than half the city's total, despite the fact that the county has more than twice as many employees.

Earlier Dolan exposed problems in the injury leave programs for L.A. police officers and firefighters -- including one who competed in mixed martial arts while on leave for a shoulder injury. As one expert asked of the generous compensation: "What's the incentive to come back to work?

Westside Stories

Sean Lourdes has become a fixture of the Westside philanthropic scene. He's thrown two events for the Dalai Lama and taken selfies with Gwyneth Paltrow and Selena Gomez. "Lourdes appeared to be the 21st century embodiment of that L.A. archetype, the outsider reinvented," reporter James Rainey wrote in an incisive profile. "But as bills went unpaid and a key project fell behind schedule, a question arose: Who had he become?"

The story examined Lourdes' record and offered a window into L.A.'s celebrity-studded charity gala circuit.

Speaking of the region's rich and famous, have you heard about Beverly Hills' new mayor? At first blush, Lili Bosse might sound like a character in Paul Mazursky's "Down and Out in Beverly Hills":

"At 8:30 a.m. each Monday, Bosse invites constituents to don their walking shoes, grab a water bottle and share their thoughts and concerns as they stroll with her around their swank city, visiting businesses and enjoying refreshments along the way," reporter Martha Groves observed. Bosse believes the walks are important because residents should be healthy. But there also appears to be some smart politics behind her fitness regime.

Infamous Hollywood Sex Case Is Back

Much of Hollywood was obsessed this week with the Sony hacking story and, to a lesser degree, developments in the Bill Cosby saga. But one of Hollywood's longest-running sex scandals is about to take center stage again. Roman Polanski made headlines when he was accused of sexually assaulting a 13-year-old girl in 1977. There were even more headlines when he fled the country a year later on the eve of his sentencing.

Since then, there have been countless articles, TV reports, documentaries and books examining whether Polanski was a victim of the criminal justice system or a predator who escaped justice. Soon, however, a court might finally review the evidence and render a decision. Polanski, now 81 and still in exile, is asking a court to review his allegations of prosecutorial and judicial misconduct and dismiss all charges. Reporting in the last 30 years indeed has raised questions about how the case was handled. But many pointed out that the allegations against Polanski are gravely serious. In 2009, when Polanski was briefly detained in Switzerland, Joe Mozingo wrote a takeout on the case that is a good primer for what's ahead.

And finally, here are some great reads for your weekend:

-In one congressional district near Sacramento, the campaign spending was so out of control that it worked out to $124 per voter. Both Republicans and Democrats in the district were not pleased.

-The decidedly mixed message sent when effigies of black men and women are placed around Berkeley.

-A smart explainer of the term "gang-related" and how it's become increasingly controversial (and not always very precise).

-Add "afterslip" as a new entry in the earthquake lexicon (right after "aftershock"). An afterslip is the gradual movement along a fault after a big quake. And it can be destructive.

-The limits of diversity: It's been more than two decades since an Asian American has served on the Los Angeles City Council.

-Steve Lopez goes two rounds in the enduring fight about public access to the Hollywood sign.

-The full "Product of Mexico" investigation series in one place.

-Is a new tax exactly what California needs right now?

-The surprisingly complex plot to kill coyotes before they kill pets.

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