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Lawmakers cancel spending plans made by former Councilman Tom LaBonge

Lawmakers cancel spending plans made by former Councilman Tom LaBonge
Former Los Angeles City Councilman Tom LaBonge speaks during a City Council meeting in June. The council unanimously agreed Tuesday to roll back plans made by LaBonge to spend more than $600,000 in discretionary money. (Katie Falkenberg / Los Angeles Times)

The Los Angeles City Council unanimously agreed Tuesday to roll back plans made by former Councilman Tom LaBonge to spend more than $600,000 in discretionary money, heeding a call by newly seated Councilman David Ryu to reexamine how the funds should be used.

During his campaign, Ryu promised to reform the way that the council office spent such money. He argued that under LaBonge, discretionary money had become tantamount to "secret slush funds." LaBonge had faced sharp criticism from some residents over some of his discretionary spending, including transferring funds to his office budget.

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In the last weeks of his tenure, LaBonge made plans for more than $600,000 in discretionary spending, including providing money to high schools, creating new trails in the Hollywood Hills, removing dead trees in Griffith Park and grants to a wide array of local nonprofits.

"This money will provide necessary aid and relief to the community," LaBonge said in a letter asking council members to reaffirm his spending plans. The former councilman also appeared at the Tuesday council meeting to speak up for the projects.

"All I did is what you should always do -- think of the people and put the money where the people are," LaBonge told his former colleagues.

In reaction, Ryu said some of those groups might ultimately get the funding, but that he wanted to allow the community to weigh in first.

At the Tuesday meeting, Ryu also raised concerns about some of the planned spending, including funding groups outside of the council district and creating trails that Ryu said could be used to view the Hollywood sign -- a sensitive issue with some neighborhood groups.

"These are decisions that I have to manage and be held accountable for, and I want a fair and open process to restore trust in local government," Ryu said.

LaBonge was termed out this summer after 14 years leading the council district, which now stretches from Sherman Oaks to the Miracle Mile. Ryu took office earlier this month.

Follow @latimesemily for what's happening at Los Angeles City Hall

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