Coliseum official gets 17% raise amid scandal

Ronald Lederkramer at a Coliseum Commission meeting in July 2011.
(Mariah Tauger / For The Times)

The Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum recently granted a 17% raise to the official who oversaw the stadium’s finances throughout a scandal involving allegations of conflict of interest, excessive perks and poor fiscal oversight.

The head of the Coliseum’s governing commission said he rescinded the $25,000 pay boost for finance director Ronald Lederkramer after Los Angeles City Controller Wendy Greuel raised questions about it last week.

Commission President David Israel said he and other panel members did not know about Lederkramer’s raise or smaller ones given to other Coliseum employees, which were also canceled.

“It’s shocking, it’s ridiculous,” Commissioner Rick Caruso said. “It’s bad management. It’s everything that’s bad about the system and government.”

Greuel is expected Wednesday to launch an investigation of the commission’s finances.

“We believe there has to be a top-to-bottom financial audit of the Coliseum’s books,” Greuel said.

Earlier this year, The Times reported that two firms set up by the Coliseum’s then-events manager, Todd DeStefano, collected at least $1.8 million from companies doing business at the stadium and companion Sports Arena, which have been operating in the red.

At the same time, the Coliseum’s former general manager, Patrick Lynch, transferred to himself ownership of a Cadillac that the commission had bought, records and interviews show. Lederkramer billed the Coliseum for most of the costs of his personally leased Jaguar, in addition to the full premium for his auto insurance, according to expense reports and other documents obtained under the California Public Records Act.

Greuel said car allowances paid to Lederkramer and other Coliseum employees will be part of her investigation. The stadium, home to two Olympics and USC football, is jointly operated by the state and the city and county of Los Angeles.

Lederkramer made about $195,000 last fiscal year in salary, a bonus and other compensation from the Coliseum and its nonprofit concessions arm. The 17% raise would have lifted his base salary from about $145,000 to $170,000, according to records released by Greuel’s office.

The commission’s interim general manager, John Sandbrook, approved raises for 20 other Coliseum employees, although most were increases of 5% or less, the records show.

Israel said all the raises have been shelved, pending a review of salaries by an outside consultant.

“Until that evaluation is done, nobody is getting a raise -- it’s that simple,” he said.

In an email, Sandbrook said the raises were part of his effort to reduce or eliminate bonuses for staff members, but that he should have waited until the review was complete.

“I put the cart before the horse, and I made a mistake in how I should have proceeded,” he said. “As a result, I apologize to the Coliseum/Sports Arena staff and to the members of the Coliseum Commission for the resulting confusion and misunderstanding as well as my failure to communicate fully and properly.”

Sandbrook said Lederkramer’s raise was based on a portion of his bonus plus extra duties he had taken on in the last year.

The Coliseum has been under mounting scrutiny since February. The Times has reported that DeStefano’s firms were paid more than $1.6 million by two concert promoters that staged raves at the Coliseum and Sports Arena. The firms also received tens of thousands of dollars from other companies that did business with the commission.

DeStefano is under investigation by county and state authorities. As part of its probe, the Los Angeles County district attorney seized documents and other material from the homes of DeStefano and Lynch.

Both men have denied doing anything wrong. Lynch’s attorney said one or more commissioners gave his client permission to take possession of the 2005 Cadillac STS. Lynch could not remember the name of the commissioner or commissioners, said attorney Tony Capozzola. Israel said Lynch did not have permission to take the car.

Los Angeles Times staff writer Rong-Gong Lin II contributed to this report.