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One More Nail in the Coffin? : CRA: The John Tuite buyout/giveaway is the last best reason for the Los Angeles City Council to take control of the agency.

<i> Los Angeles City Councilman Nate Holden represents the 10th District</i>

The Community Redevelopment Agency’s Board of Commissioners has once again ignored public opinion and continues to give away our hard-earned tax dollars in a reckless fashion. The commissioners gave John Tuite, its general manager, a record holiday gift--$1.54 million to walk away from his job. Why?

Tuite has 19 months remaining on his city employment contract, and neither I nor the public understand why that much money should be paid to him or to anybody without his working for it.

I have known John Tuite to be a hard-working, loyal, competent and dedicated public servant. Tuite and I have not always agreed on every issue, but we have never discussed an issue that we did not resolve to our mutual satisfaction. The excuses that Jim Wood, chairman of the CRA board, gave for buying out Tuite’s contract are totally unacceptable. I am convinced that there is a hidden agenda.

For example, Wood told the City Council’s Community Development and Housing Committee when it met on this buyout controversy early last week that “Mr. Tuite’s attention (from managing the CRA) has been diverted by circumstances beyond his control.” He added that Tuite “hasn’t given his attention to the long-term view of the agency.” This statement implies that Wood has more information about Tuite than he is willing to share with the committee. If Wood is aware of “circumstances” that “divert” Tuite’s attention from his daily duties at the CRA, then the City Council has a right to know.

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Other CRA officials disagree with Wood. They have stated that Tuite has been on the “outs” with Wood and Deputy Mayor Mark Fabiani for a long time. Wood wants Tuite out of the job on his own terms without interference from the mayor’s office, the officials said. I strongly believe the commission’s and Fabiani’s fingerprints are all over this buyout agreement, and I believe they should be required to explain why they went to such historic lengths and at such an unprecedented expenditure of taxpayers’ money to get rid of John Tuite.

Committee members pressed for answers and explanations during the meeting, but Wood was not the least bit forthcoming. Wood was emphatic when he responded to the question: “Was the mayor informed of the terms of the settlement?” Wood answered: “No!” When he was asked whether Fabiani was aware of the settlement, Wood responded: I decline to answer that question” and added that “such questions are not relevant.”

We need a CRA that is well-managed, that has the leadership of commissioners and administrators who will provide affordable housing and who will efficiently carry out the duties of the agency as prescribed by law.

The John Tuite buyout/giveaway is just one more nail in the CRA coffin, and I am convinced that if Tuite leaves, so should the Board of Commissioners. Fabiani should be harnessed and restrained from meddling in the CRA’s affairs. The City Council should assume responsibility for the agency until all those leadership matters can be resolved. There should be a better working relationship between the CRA and the city and county of Los Angeles.

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The City Council should take control of the CRA and our chief legislative analyst should assign a coordinator whose duties would be to interact with the agency and the council to provide an easy flow of information so that we can accomplish mutual goals and objectives--particularly, raising the CRA’s $750-million cap to an amount that we can agree on, with the increase allocated to provide essential low- and moderate-income housing units, and at the same time continue the growth and development of our business community.

If the City Council refuses to take control of the CRA, even temporarily, then I am confident that the public will view the absence of action to be a part of the problem.


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