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Improper Gift of State Computers to Youth Center Acknowledged

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Gov. Pete Wilson’s office acknowledged Tuesday that Wilson a year ago improperly gave about a dozen state computers to a Korean community center in Los Angeles that had an Administration official on its board of directors.

The computers, it turned out, had not officially been declared surplus. And the group that got them--the Korean Youth and Community Center--was not registered with the state to receive the unused property, which might have gone to schools had normal procedures been followed.

“It appears a mistake was made,” said Sean Walsh, Wilson’s press secretary. “We will endeavor to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”

Walsh said Wilson was unaware at the time that Chong W. Ha, director of the state’s Teale Data Center and a board member at the community center, had steered the computers to the Korean group without following state regulations for disposal of the property.

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Wilson announced the donation in April as he visited the center a few days before the verdicts in the second Rodney G. King beating trial.

His stop there was part of a two-day tour by the governor to promote efforts to rebuild Los Angeles after the 1992 riots and to reassure a nervous city that the state would respond quickly and forcefully to any repeat of the violence that marked the days after the first King verdicts.

Robert Pitkin, a spokesman for the Business, Transportation and Housing Agency, which oversees Ha’s department, said Ha became aware of the community group’s need for computers and knew that his center had some machines no one wanted that were sitting in a warehouse for a year.

The 13 IBM and ITT personal computers had limited memory capacity and were of no use to the state, Pitkin said. He said they had “negligible, if any” market value.

“Unfortunately, there are state regulations which specify how machinery is to be given away, and the Teale Data Center did not follow those regulations,” Pitkin said.

Only after the computers were donated, Pitkin said, did the Department of General Services complete the paperwork to declare them surplus government property.

Pitkin said the state does not intend to take the computers back from the community center. He said Ha has not been disciplined but has been counseled to follow the rules in the future.

“He was called on the carpet,” Pitkin said. “I think the message has been received.”

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Ha was not available for comment Tuesday. A spokeswoman said Ha was not aware of the regulations at the time he arranged the gift and was following informal procedures commonly practiced by state government for many years.


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