Los Angeles City Council members voted Friday to defer a motion that would regulate the spending and oversight of city money earmarked for community improvement projects in their districts, saying the idea needed further study.
Although the money available to each of the 15 council districts was cut from $270,000 to $20,000 in next year’s proposed budget, the panel members nevertheless engaged in a spirited debate on the issue.
Councilman Jack Weiss, who proposed the measure following accusations the funds were used for political purposes in a council election this spring, said he believed the regulation was necessary to ensure that “those funds ... are spent only in the right way for the right reasons.”
His motion called for council members and community groups to sign a statement stipulating that the money would be used in accordance with all local laws. Other council members said they feared such a requirement would scare away needy community groups intimidated by the legal system.
“I’m trying to look at simplicity here,” said Councilman Ed Reyes, noting that many people in his district do not speak English well. “I’m trying to look at things that don’t intimidate people who are already intimidated.”
The controversy over the funds first arose after a group that received money from Councilman Nick Pacheco’s account was linked to a political committee supporting his reelection; Pacheco, who lost his seat to Antonio Villaraigosa in March, denied any wrongdoing.
A Times analysis also found that council members have transferred more than 40% of the money to office salary accounts.
City Controller Laura Chick said she was astounded at how the money was spent, calling it “slush accounts that advantage the incumbent.”