"LA's Chance to Punch Back: Kenneth Mejia for City Controller" by Daniel Guss
This is your chance, LA. Punch back good and hard or forever stop complaining
@TheGussReport- Earlier this week I explained why a fed-up Los Angeles needs Rick Caruso for its next mayor. He is a skilled executive who accomplishes what he sets out to achieve in the public, private and non-profit sectors. He is a problem solver in a city teeming with them. Caruso has held important and powerful commissioner roles overseeing local government agencies, yet most importantly, he isn’t a politician.
For that last reason in particular — and more — Kenneth Mejia is by far the best choice for city controller. For once, this column wholeheartedly agrees with the LA Times Editorial Board.
So, what does the city controller do?
In its simplest form, the city controller is essentially the city’s banker and cashier. In one of my successful lawsuits against the LAPD and City Attorney, who maliciously misused my personal information and then refused to correct it, the office of current City Controller Ron Galperin cut the check.
In that case, a deputy city attorney named Jonathan Peralta Bislig also received a warning letter from the State Bar of California for his malicious misconduct.
That brings us to the more important role of the controller: investigating red flags like corruption, waste and patterns of misconduct. Like, why earlier this year, Galperin had to cut me another check for my winning another lawsuit against the LAPD for doing the same damn thing with my personal information?
But Galperin is one of them and is essentially paid to look the other way and instead report on whether City Hall uses too many paperclips and such. He has reaped millions of dollars being a City Hall plant, or in basketball terms, The Washington Generals playing the supposed opposition to The Harlem Globetrotters.
It is similar to LAPD Detective Heather Herrera asking me for an interview for a faux investigation she wanted to appear to conduct, but then dodging my every effort to engage, even when I openly cc’d Chief Michel Moore. Later, the LAPD Office of Inspector General declared — with bold untruthfulness — that its investigation was thorough, complete and reached a conclusion of no misconduct.
Without ever speaking with me.
The LAPD and other city agencies do this because there is no check and balance system. They lie, change dates on public records and retaliate. Any payouts are made with taxpayer dollars, rather than their own.
Now imagine what the system looks like to people of color, or who do not speak English or who are fearful of a government with a legendary history of abuse, retaliation and cover-ups. And this comes from someone who has always appreciated good police officers, but not corrupt police agencies.
These are the roots of corruption that explain why our next city controller needs to be as independent of the rest of City Hall as possible. Galperin isn’t. Koretz wouldn’t be. But Kenneth Mejia is exactly that.
On his own, Kenneth Mejia is by far the best choice for controller because:
He is a Certified Public Accountant with a Big 4 background
He has real-world auditing experience
As the LA Times noted in its reiterated endorsement of Mejia, his website already shows his ideas on how to use city data effectively. It also notes that Koretz hasn’t even a single such plan on his website
Mejia has already signed up as a volunteer at LA Animal Services, one of the city’s most troubled agencies, while Koretz admits he hasn’t set foot in the pound in years despite chairing the City Council committee that oversees LAAS
Mejia and his team are masters of social media, which is the best, most transparent and cost-effective way to educate us about what he is doing on the public’s behalf.
And perhaps most importantly, Kenneth Mejia is reachable. Minutes after a recent appearance on “The John and Ken Show” on KFI AM-640, I received a call from him asking for specifics on the issues I raised. He took meticulous notes and asked direct, pertinent questions that I anticipate will be his approach given the Controller’s job and a staff of auditors under his direction.
This list could be three times as long, but you get the idea.
And then there’s Paul Koretz, who is the antithesis of Mejia in every conceivable way. Again, this list could be much longer, but here are some of the reasons why Koretz should be kept as far away from City Hall as possible after terming out:
He has zero auditing experience. But it’s so much worse than that.
Koretz has violated his oath of office by having the word “Audits” added to the committee he chairs in order to mislead the public into believing that he has skill and experience in auditing. He had exactly none.
Renaming this committee from Personnel and Animal Welfare to Personnel AUDITS and Animal Welfare was made with the explicit approval of then-Council President Nury Martinez, who resigned in disgrace last month.
Koretz’s committee was named Personnel and Animal Welfare from its inception many years ago and remained that way until its last meeting on December 16, 2020…until Koretz canceled it, that is.
That was when Koretz decided he needs another job after he terms-out.
He and Martinez conspired to mislead the public by falsely implying he has auditing skills and experience, just by adding the word “Audits” in time for its first meeting on February 3, 2021, after another leisurely winter recess.
This is how City Hall corruption works.
My friends, this ruse — this scheme — on the public was done to wedge Koretz into the Controller’s job for the sole purpose of having an insider, a political careerist who was endorsed by almost every other city official, as gatekeeper of all that is wrong in Los Angeles city government. They want to bury not just the things that sent Koretz’s pals to face federal criminal charges, but every other bad policy that hurts the rest of us every day of the year, from homelessness to LAPD misconduct.
Koretz refuses to explain why he misappropriated $1.5 million in funds donated to the City’s Animal Welfare Trust Fund for vague “marketing” purposes, like redoing the pound’s website with no stated purpose… with a no-bid contract… with a company that seemingly has no actual experience and no apparent full-time employees.
When I made a public records request of Koretz’s office for this dicey transaction, it claimed it had not a single document… then it referred me to LA Animal Services… and Galperin’s office… neither of which provided anything.
So I reached out to a professional website developer — with experience building government animal pound websites — to assess what LA got for $1.5mm. The entirety of his response will be provided to Mejia should he win the controller’s job. For now, his key takeaways are:
“Obviously a no bid contract seems quite fishy, and to not even have any paperwork for an RFI or RFP, or to not even have a statement of need or proposal of services describing the work to be done seems... really suspect. Even incredibly small, relatively informal organizations that receive any kind of government funding are usually pretty good about their procurement process.”
“Based on the site you shared with me, it looks like it should probably cost somewhere in the $100,000 - $150,000 range for the site itself if they used a locally based firm or agency… Without any behind the scenes context, I don't see how this site could cost more than $250,000 and even that is a steep estimate.”
“If you want to try to attribute this to just a handful of people who are bad at their jobs - in my career I have seen people simply mismanage projects so terribly that costs go over. But usually at some point they start keeping a paper trail, at least some emails, as a CYA for when their head is inevitably on the chopping block for doing such a terrible job.
While I've not researched it myself, it does seem like a lot of "mistakes" to happen in a single engagement. I wouldn't be surprised if you found out there was some kind of kickback or subcontractor hired for a fraction of this to build out the site, and the rest of it evaporated.”
Koretz’s misappropriation of these donated funds directly led to the shocking discovery this summer that those funds could have been used to hire an army of dog walkers and volunteers for LAAS dogs who didn’t leave their cages for weeks and months at a time.
If you did that to your dogs, you likely would have been charged with a crime.
When whistleblowing animal pound volunteers spoke up at Koretz’s committee, they were either already or subsequently fired. Koretz kept cutting them off, including yours truly, when we expressed a preference for Mejia, with Koretz falsely stating that our on-topic concerns were “off-topic” before disconnecting our calls.
Koretz again misused his power to censor critics of his decisions and their cruel, severe consequences. That is the type of controller Paul Koretz would be: depriving the public of its right to criticize its governments.
Shall we continue?
So much to type, so little space left…
After this column’s reporting about Koretz’s misappropriation of the $1.5 million, he stopped responding to my media inquiries but kept opening and reading them.
Eventually, on October 11th, I finally got Koretz to respond by adding questions that had little to do with him. To that, he finally replied:
Koretz only responded to the sideshow questions designed to get him to respond.
To date, he won’t say what happened to the money and records. And neither will the five LAAS Commissioners who should be summarily dismissed by the next mayor.
There are also racist, homophobic statements by Koretz about the “Black hustler” murder victims of his friend and donor, Ed Buck, whose money he refused to shed.
Don’t forget Koretz’s delayed deletion of the endorsements of disgraced Councilmembers Nury Martinez, Gil Cedillo and Kevin de León, though he clings to those of Mike Hernandez, who was busted buying cocaine in his city-owned vehicle in the 90s, and former City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo, who attempted to commit insurance fraud when an accident occurred with his city vehicle with his wife, Michelle Delgadillo, driving despite having a suspended license. Koretz only dropped the Cedillo and de León endorsements after this column shamed him into doing so.
These are some of the people Paul Koretz is proud to have on his side, which speaks volumes about Paul Koretz more than anything.
And now for something new and shocking but not all that surprising…
Koretz’s wife, Gail Koretz, raked in a whopping $707,296.85 in salary and benefits as a Mayoral Aide to Eric Garcetti during his tenure. Question: How rigorous and open do you suspect that interview process was? What a coincidence that Garcetti chose Gail Koretz solely on her being the best person for the job!
This, on top of the millions Paul Koretz has raked in, is City Hall’s way of keeping insiders close. Unless you buy the notion that Mrs. Koretz was absolutely the best person for that job, it is yet another reason to say no to Mr. Koretz and yes to Mr. Mejia.
Finally, this column has repeatedly stressed that Koretz is the worst type of politician because he tells the public he will help the people with their problems, but never actually solves them. This keeps him relevant and needed in a cynical, rotting-soul kind of way.
That is, until Koretz needs a Hail Mary to keep his career going like he needed once Mejia trounced him and the field in the primary earlier this year.
Koretz’s blowout loss to a young, energetic and skilled CPA with immense strength in data analysis and social media like Kenneth Mejia is a heck of an ego blow to a tired political careerist. So is the LA Times endorsing Mejia and extolling his published ideas.
It explains why Koretz waited until the final days of his third and final term to ask City Council for more money for the animal shelters. It is why Koretz waited until this week to make a declaration about hate speech and anti-Semitism despite people showing up to Council meetings for years with KKK outfits and swastikas.
But it is Koretz’s colleagues teeing him up to praise him for these long-delayed initiatives that are most revealing. They need Koretz because they too have a lot of skeletons that Kenneth Mejia will subpoena, audit and expose if elected.
That, my friends, is the single best reason to cast your vote for Kenneth Mejia; entrenched, corrupt and inept City Hall fears him.
Mejia has pledged to expose and hold accountable all wrongdoers.
Every last one of them. The politicians. The bagmen. The bad agencies, attorneys, cops and all of their unemployable nephews. This is your chance, LA. Punch back good and hard or forever stop complaining. You will never get a chance like this again.
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(Daniel Guss, MBA, was nominated for three 2022 LA Press Club awards and was a runner-up in 2021 and 2020. He has contributed to Mayor Sam, CityWatchLA, KFI AM-640, iHeartMedia, 790-KABC, Cumulus Media, KCRW, Huffington Post, Los Angeles Daily News, Los Angeles Magazine, Movieline Magazine, Emmy Magazine, Los Angeles Business Journal, Pasadena Star-News, Los Angeles Downtown News and the Los Angeles Times in its sports, opinion, entertainment and Sunday Magazine sections among other publishers.)
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