Mayor Knew About Payout to Fired Housing Authority Chief
UPDATE: [9:32 p.m.] - Questions have arisen whether the mayor's staff was aware of the amount of Rudy Montiel's settlement. Deputy Mayor Sarah Sheahan told the Los Angeles Times, "The commission made our staff aware they were working towards a settlement. But we were not consulted about the settlement. We didn't know the final dollar figure." However, earlier today the board chair of the housing authority commission, Mitch Kamin, told SoCal Connected in an e-mail, "The general terms including the amount were shared with the [mayor's] staff." Kamin was appointed by the mayor. Meanwhile, interim chief Ken Simmons has stated that he will resign as CEO at the mayor's request. Story here.
4:58 p.m. - KCET's SoCal Connected has learned that Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa not only knew about but authorized a $1.2 million settlement package for fired housing authority chief Rudolf "Rudy" Montiel, according to city officials.
A representative of the mayor's office told the Los Angeles Times on Tuesday that Villaraigosa, who is on business in Asia, was unaware of the settlement and severance package.
But the mayor's deputy chief of staff, Matt Szabo, has contradicted that account.
"The mayor was absolutely aware and authorized the settlement in this matter," Szabo told SoCal Connected. "Although he may not have been briefed on every detail of the settlement, he certainly authorized and encouraged the chairman of the board to move forward with the settlement so that the agency could end an unfortunate chapter and move forward."
In March multiple media reports, including a SoCal Connected investigation, revealed top officials in the Los Angeles Housing Authority, the beleaguered agency charged with housing the city's poorest residents, had been running up questionable charges on the public's dime. Two commissioners and then-CEO Montiel were ousted in response.
Last weekend the Times reported the housing authority had agreed to pay Montiel a severance package that included a legal settlement of $645,000 and a severance payment of about $540,000 for 18 months pay and back interest.
"The board was advised in this matter by both the City Attorney's office and private counsel, and the settlement was facilitated by an experienced mediator. The terms were shared with the mayor's office before being finalized, and we have his full support for this decision," wrote Mitchell Kamin in an e-mail to SoCal Connected. Kamin is the board chair for the housing authority commission.
"Given the terms of the contract and the certainty of a costly and lengthy legal battle that could have resulted in damages far in excess of what was paid, we believe the settlement was in the best interests of HACLA and the City," Kamin wrote.
Six days ago, SoCal Connected reported in an exclusive investigation charges of overspending on travel, restaurants and perks by the housing authority.