Newspapers are the last bastion against government waste, fraud and corruption (Ron Kaye’s column, “Why local newspapers matter,” July 8).
I am a retired newspaper reporter who covered municipal government for several papers, and I know that only through a free press will scandals and bad behavior by elected or appointed officials be exposed.
Had not the Burbank Leader taken the city of Burbank to court to obtain the names of city employees receiving bonus payouts and the amounts, few people in this city would have been aware of how much money was siphoned off for this purpose. Payouts over the years contributed to the city’s budget woes in fiscal year 2011-12, necessitating cuts in the Fire Department and to the library.
Don’t count on one government agency to investigate another agency accused of misdeeds. When Burbank refused to release employee names and bonus amounts, and before the Leader took the city to court, I wrote to the state attorney general’s office, but never received even a computer-generated “Thank you for your recent letter” reply. In Bell, employees had gone to the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office with their concerns, but the highest law enforcement agency in the county did nothing until The Times broke that story.
Curious, I called City Hall on July 2 and asked for the names and amounts of all bonuses given in the last fiscal year. I was told that the program had been suspended. This could not have happened without the Burbank Leader’s disclosure of the $1-million-a-year employee bonus program.
Ron Kaye’s last paragraph sums up his column nicely: “You can knock your local newspaper all you want. But if you need help, or know something rotten is going on, who you going to call? Ghostbusters?”