What L.A. Taxpayers Should Know About Liability Claims Paid by the City

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Taxpayers whose money goes to support City government in Los Angeles have a right to know that the current City budget allocates $55 million for Liability Claims and Financing. That’s more than the City spends for Water and Electricity.

Another way to consider the cost of liability claims is to recall that the Mayor recently declared the City faces a $72 million budget gap. Most of that gap would be closed by the $55-million allocated to pay off liability claims!

The City budget indicates that the $55 million allocation for liability claims is shared, unevenly, by 26 of the 34 funded departments. But the budget doesn’t explain why those departments are spending $55 million to settle liability claims. Nor does it identify the recipients of all that money.

But based on my experience at City Hall, I would bet that at least part of the money is provided to settle claims of illegal job discrimination, or to pay off employees who’ve complained about sexual harassment, etc.

Documents in my possession indicate that, earlier this year, a Sergeant in the LAPD won a $1.1 million jury award for job discrimination. The Sergeant claimed he’d been harassed and moved to a less prestigious unit because he’s gay. The City Attorney was reviewing its options in this case.

Also in my records is a newspaper clipping dated Aug. 12, 2009, that indicates the City Council had voted to pay $8.1 million to two Firefighters who won jury awards after they filed discrimination and retaliation lawsuits against the LAFD.

Another clipping in my files reports that the City Council had OK’d payment of $1.5 million to a former Engineer in the Department of Public Works. This clipping dates back to Nov. 27, 2002. It indicates that a successful suit had been brought against the City by an employee who charged that he’d been denied a promotion because he was born in Syria and is a practicing Muslim.

There are undoubtedly many reasons why the City Council agrees to settle liability claims. But lest we forget, the cost of all such settlements is borne by the people of Los Angeles. And let’s also remember that many of the claims that wind up wasting taxpayer dollars could be prevented!

What City government needs now is a management team that works effectively with the established employee unions — a team that, together with the unions, works with diligence and dedication to improve Human Resource Management.

Contact Samuel Sperling at samuelmsperling@yahoo.com.

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