Mayor Will Dissolve DONE on Monday

Scandal-Scarred Agency to Be Merged Into Community Development

DONE is finished.
Expect the announcement from Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's office Monday that the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment (DONE), which oversees the city's 90 Neighborhood Councils, will be disbanded and only nine of its remaining employees will shift to the Community Development Department (CDD).
The mayor already ordered the elimination of the  departments of Environmental Services and Human Services in an attempt to ease the city's budget crisis.
The bomb dropped at 6:30 p.m. Friday leaving DONE employees wondering about their futures over the weekend, a staffer said.

 

The mayor's announcement comes on the heels of a scathing audit which, among other criticisms, said that DONE couldn't account for at least $5.6 million on its books. The department had forgotten a bank account containing $160,000. At at least six Neighborhood Council officers are under investigation for the alleged embezzlement of a total of $276,000 in taxpayer money. The criminal allegations were first revealed in the Chatsworth Roundup.


This is "a systematic failure of accounting and fiscal oversight," according to the audit released Jan 12. Please click here to view audit.

The shuttering of DONE leaves in question the immediate status of unpaid Neighborhood Council bills. It may also complicate upcoming Neighborhood Council elections.

DONE will transition with 14 employees until June 30, with nine moving to CDD on July 1. Then, two will be tasked with maintaining accurate financial operations, according to Al Abrams, vice president of the Board of Neighborhood Commissioners.

BongHwan Kim, general manager of DONE, and a mayoral appointee, reportedly will depart by mid-March. A request for comment went unanswered over the weekend. Kim has been overseeing a months-long reconciliation of DONE's books in an attempt to find out how much city money remains in each Neighborhood Council's account.

This fiscal year each Neighborhood Council was allocated $45,000 to fund operations and community activities, down from $50,000 in previous years. However, rollover savings from previous years has been in doubt because DONE has not been able to reconcile its accounts.

At Thursday's City Council session, Councilman Greig Smith grilled Kim, according to the CityWatch newsletter, asking if he could get the funding audit done on schedule. Kim responded "I'll do my best," drawing the ire of Smith, who went on the attack, suggesting that if that was the best answer available, Kim should resign or the mayor should fire him.
Also Thursday, the City Council, dealing with a $212-million budget deficit, ordered agency heads to cut 3,000 additional city jobs "by any means necessary, including layoffs" by July 1. This is in addition to the 1,000 cuts ordered earlier by the mayor. The budget shortfall is expected to increase to $485 million in 2010-2011.

Urging quick action, Councilman Smith said, "You cannot walk away from this thinking that it's going to take care of itself."

On Friday, Mayor Villaraigosa called for all city employees to take pay cuts, including police officers and firefighters, saying it would be the only way to avoid job cuts.

A request for comment from the mayor went unanswered over the weekend.

The first Neighborhood Council was chartered in December of 2001 under rules established by the City Charter. Their primary job is to provide communities with a grassroots voice at City Hall.

 

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Established in August of 2008 by writerartist Dianne V. Lawrence, The Neighborhood News covers the events, people, history, politics and historic architecture of communities throughout the Mid-City and West Adams area in Los Angeles Council District 10.

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