L.A. County supervisors make auditor available for Coliseum

Los Angeles County Supervisors Don Knabe and Mark Ridley-Thomas at a meeting of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum Commission in November 2011.
(Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times)

The L.A. County Board of Supervisors has made its auditor-controller available to review the books of the troubled L.A. Memorial Coliseum Commission and act as the stadium authority’s interim finance director.

City Controller Wendy Greuel had already announced a broad audit of the Coliseum, which has been plagued by questionable business dealings and spending practices by its managers.

The Coliseum Commission would have to agree to the supervisors’ offer of an audit and pay for it.

“It’s an option,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who made the county audit proposal with Supervisor Don Knabe. The board approved it on a 5-0 vote.

“I think there is enough concern raised that we have to stand ready to do what hasn’t been done, and we make available the extensive knowledge of the auditor-controller to assist in that effort,” said Ridley-Thomas, whose district includes the Coliseum and companion Sports Arena.

Ridley-Thomas, Knabe and Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky sit on the nine-member Coliseum Commission, which also includes three representatives each from the city and state. “It was the right thing to do,” Knabe said of the proposal.

Yaroslavsky did not respond to an interview request. Commission President David Israel declined to comment.

Greuel said in an email: “Given the magnitude of the problems at the Coliseum, it is no surprise the County Board of Supervisors wants to scrutinize the financial integrity of the Coliseum. We are committed to working cooperatively with all agencies involved.”

Citing records and interviews, The Times has reported that two firms run by the Coliseum’s then-events manager collected at least $1.8 million from companies that did business with the stadium. Another manager directed Coliseum work to a business he founded, according to stadium invoices and interviews.

At the same time, Coliseum managers have spent thousands of commission dollars on luxury cars, gasoline purchases for their vehicles and other perks.

One of those managers, Ronald Lederkramer, is the finance director and has gone on medical leave. If the commission accepts the board’s officer, his duties would be performed in the interim by Auditor-Controller Wendy L. Watanabe or her appointee.

The commission has been caught in a financial scandal since February. The district attorney’s office is investigating the former events manager, Todd DeStefano, and has served search warrants at his home and the residence of former General Manager Patrick Lynch, who resigned in February. Both men have denied wrongdoing.