By Paul Pringle and Rong-Gong Lin II
Los Angeles Times
September 3, 2011
Last year, the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum's technology manager enlisted a private company to help stage events such as a UCLA-USC soccer match, ESPN's X Games and a run-up to the Lingerie Bowl, an alternative Super Bowl halftime show.
The company was well known to the manager, Leopold Caudillo Jr. -- he founded it with a co-worker and had directed Coliseum business to it before, according to records and interviews.
The commission that governs the publicly owned stadium and companion Sports Arena has paid the company, HH Tech, about $30,000 in the last four years, most of it in 2010, documents obtained by The Times show.
Caudillo is named, in his capacity as a Coliseum manager, as the purchaser of HH Tech's services on 13 of 14 orders disclosed under the California Public Records Act. Separately, he submitted three requests for checks to be issued to HH Tech.
State conflict-of-interest laws generally prohibit government employees from making, participating in or otherwise influencing a decision by their agency in which they have any financial interest.
Caudillo said in an interview that he did not benefit from the payments and no longer holds any ownership interest in HH Tech, although the most recent records available from the state list him as its only manager. "It's not my company," he said, insisting that the worker who set it up with him, David Shea, is the current owner.
Asked in a telephone interview if he owned HH Tech, Shea did not answer and hung up.
Coliseum Commission President David Israel said in response to Times inquiries that the panel would hire an attorney to investigate the matter. "I'm troubled ? enough to bring in an outside investigator," Israel said.
The Times previously reported that, according to records and interviews, Caudillo bought a Lincoln Town Car from the commission at a substantial discount and kept the government license plates on it for five years, saving himself hundreds of dollars in annual auto registration costs and other fees.
Caudillo is the second Coliseum manager shown by documents and interviews to have launched a private firm that engaged in side dealings involving the historic stadium, which is home to USC football and the site of two Olympiads.
Former events manager Todd DeStefano is under investigation by the Los Angeles County district attorney's office and the state Fair Political Practices Commission because two firms he ran while working for the Coliseum took in more than $1.8 million from companies that did business with the stadium authority.
The ongoing financial scandal prompted the resignation of former Coliseum General Manager Patrick Lynch in February and has proved an embarrassment for the nine-member stadium commission, a joint body of the state and the city and county of Los Angeles.
Even as HH Tech and DeStefano's firms profited from Coliseum-related business, the commission found itself posting two consecutive years of red ink, leaving it unable to pay for upgrades it promised USC under its football lease. That has complicated the commission's efforts to persuade a prospective Los Angeles NFL team to play at the Coliseum for two or three seasons while a proposed football stadium is built downtown.
In 2004, Caudillo and Shea registered HH Tech with the county, describing the firm as a partnership. About three years later, HH Tech filed articles of organization with the secretary of state's office that registered the firm as a limited liability company. Shea was listed in the articles as the firm's designated agent to accept service of process if the company was sued.
In 2008, Caudillo submitted a statement to the secretary of state's office in which he identified himself as the company's sole manager. Shea was again named as an agent for service of process.
Caudillo said in the interview that he filed a state form some time ago to remove himself from HH Tech's registration, although a secretary of state spokeswoman said the office had no record of it. Caudillo said he probably had a copy, but he did not produce it or return follow-up phone calls.
Earlier this summer, the Coliseum's interim general manager, John Sandbrook, told The Times that he was unfamiliar with HH Tech but would look into it. He provided no information.
Coliseum payments to the firm were mostly for labor, with HH Tech billing the commission hourly charges of up to $350, although the documents do not specify whether the highest costs were for more than one worker. A number of charges were at flat rates, such as $1,000 for installation of fiber-optic cable.
Some HH Tech costs paid by the commission were then charged to USC, according to the records. An attorney for the commission said the costs were for USC games and other school events.
Caudillo said he recommended the firm for Coliseum jobs "when there was no other option to get somebody else." He also said he supervised HH Tech's work only "in some cases." In 2010, Caudillo's compensation as a commission employee was $72,000, records show. He manages the audiovisual and communications operations of the Coliseum and Sports Arena.
Most of the payments to HH Tech were authorized by Coliseum Finance Director Ronald Lederkramer, who initialed the corresponding purchase orders. He did not respond to an interview request, but the commission's lawyer, Principal Deputy County Counsel Thomas Faughnan, said in an email that "Mr. Lederkramer has conveyed to me that he did not know that Mr. Caudillo or Mr. Shea had any connection to HH Tech."
The firm received one payment from the Coliseum in 2007 -- $811 for video work and equipment rentals for the Bell High School graduation, according to the invoices. It collected five the next year, but none in 2009. Since June 2010, the company has been paid more than $20,000 from the commission, including for audio work on the Lingerie Football League game, according to the invoices and purchase orders.
The last billing produced for The Times was $250 in May, for replacement of a radiator in a Coliseum truck.
Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, who is a member of the commission, said he knew nothing about HH Tech. Yaroslavsky said he wanted a "full accounting" from Sandbrook, a retired UCLA administrator whom he recruited to replace Lynch.
"This is something the general manager has to address," the supervisor said.
Faughnan said Sandbrook could not discuss the situation publicly because of the pending Caudillo investigation.
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